Manager Says Ford Planned to Use Position for Profit - NewsChannel5.com | Nashville News, Weather & Sports

NewsChannel 5 Investigates: Capitol Hill Corruption

Manager Says Ford Planned to Use Position for Profit

(Story created: 3/14/05)

A former manager of a company associated with state Sen. John Ford says the Senate chairman promised to use his position for profit. This comes amid investigations by the Senate Ethics Committee and a federal grand jury in Memphis.

The former Johnson Controls manager, Scott Bascue, says it was Ford's powerful position as chair of the Senate's health committee -- and the lure of a big contract with one of Tennessee's biggest hospitals, Erlanger Medical Center -- that led to the consulting deal.

"The hospital is saying, 'We don't think this is a good idea' -- and John Ford is saying, 'Well, I can force them to do it,' " Bascue tells NewsChannel 5 chief investigative reporter Phil Williams. "If they didn't use it, then he would deny them funds."

"And he actually said that?" Williams asks.

"Yes."

The deal between Ford and heat-and-air giant Johnson Controls was first revealed by NewsChannel 5.

Monday, the Milwaukee-based company acknowledged paying the Memphis Democrat $15,000 in 2001 -- all part of the efforts to win a contract with Erlanger, a Chattanooga hospital affiliated with UT's College of Medicine.

A Johnson Controls spokesman added, "To our knowledge, Sen. Ford's consultancy duties did not conflict with his role as a legislator."

In addition, officials with the state Board of Regents also acknowledged Monday that Ford set up meetings there to try to help Johnson Controls with contracts for state colleges.

And the company has admitted getting help in efforts to get contracts for other state buildings.

But a spokesman insists Ford was not paid for those.

"That's a lie -- he was paid," Bascue responds.

"I know there was a portion of that contract that was reward-based -- basically meaning if they signed a particular contract and were successful, then he got a higher fee out of it."

In fact, Ford's influence was seen as being so critical to Johnson Controls that, Bascue says, his job was to keep him entertained -- which wasn't cheap.

"Very expensive -- you could spend 600 bucks on John Ford in no time flat."

Throughout his dealings with Ford, Bascue says, it just didn't seem right.

"I did raise my objections," he says.

"And what was the reaction?" Williams asks.

"It was keep your mouth shut and do what you are told."

Johnson Controls officials were forced to testify two years ago against two Atlanta city officials. Company representatives passed the officials a $10,000 gift during a meeting in Memphis. 

Ford's attorneys acknowledge he has had consulting deals -- but they insist they were all legal under state law.

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