Company Confirms New Ford Consulting Deal - | Nashville News, Weather & Sports

NewsChannel 5 Investigates: Capitol Hill Corruption

Company Confirms New Ford Consulting Deal

(Story created: 3/11/05)

FIRST ON 5: There are more questions about state Sen. John Ford and his million dollars in consulting deals. Now, a NewsChannel 5 investigation has uncovered yet another contract that may raise some eyebrows.

So far, the questions have focused on Ford's consulting for a company with ties to TennCare.

That came as he headed the Senate committee that deals with health care issues.

The latest deal -- confirmed late Friday by NewsChannel 5's chief investigative reporter Phil Williams -- involves one of the state's largest hospitals and a company called Johnson Controls.

That's a Milwaukee-based energy company that specializes in heat, air and lighting systems for large facilities.

Johnson Controls says it hired Ford in late 2001 or early 2002 in an unsuccessful effort to win a major contract with Erlanger Medical Center in Chattanooga.

Erlanger is a non-profit hospital that's affiliated with the University of Tennessee, and it has business before Ford's committee.

Company spokesman Darryll Fortune says he can not say how much the Senate chairman was paid.

The Memphis Democrat was hired, Fortune says, for his ability to explain complex energy management issues.

Johnson Controls says it also asked Ford to assist with one of two energy efficiency contracts for state buildings in May 2003.

The project was overseen by the state Department of Finance. Ford also sits on the Senate's Finance Committee.

"During the RFP (request for proposals) process, we were asked to clarify some parts of our proposal," Fortune says. "As such, the senator was asked to take this explanation back to the folks doing the RFP."

The company says Ford was not paid for that effort.

A spokesman later clarified that Ford worked on a contract that they lost, but Johnson Controls won another similar contract handled at the same time by the same agency.

Under state rules, it might be highly improper to have any political contact during the contracting process.

Finance Commissioner Dave Goetz tells Phil Williams that he was not aware of any such contact, but that he'll start digging into what happened first thing next week.

Neither Ford nor his attorney could be reached for comment. Erlanger officials did not return a telephone call seeking comment.

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