Ethics Committee Receives 'Damning' Evidence Against Ford - | Nashville News, Weather & Sports

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Ethics Committee Receives 'Damning' Evidence Against Ford

(Story created: 5/27/05)

The Senate's Ethics Committee has uncovered even more evidence against state Sen. John Ford. The evidence was just released after weeks of investigation. It confirms what our own chief investigative reporter Phil Williams has uncovered in the last three months.

"For me to sit here and to be accused of violating the ethics rules is beyond me."

That was Ford appeared before the Ethics Committee back in March.

"There is no proof," he insisted

Now, a report from the ethics committee's special counsel provides new evidence that the committee chairman describes in one word:

"It's very damning, to tell you the truth," says Senate Ethics Committee chairman Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville.

Perhaps the most damning: internal e-mails from Doral Dental.
Doral is the Wisconsin-based company that won TennCare's dental business in 2002.

That came after it signed a consulting deal with a company linked to Ford -- a deal that would end upon the death of a "principal legislator."

"It looks like that Sen. Ford was helping them through the committee system, and that's absolutely against our code of ethics," Ramsey adds.

In one, former company chairman Craig Kasten writes about the proposed contract:

"Sen. John Ford ... is the chairman of the Senate committee that deals with TennCare issues.... According to Senator Ford, the deal is progressing nicely and it will be ours."

Another e-mail notes Ford's efforts to steer a Senate committee debate in Doral's favor. "He turned the meeting around."

Yet, Ford's financial ties were an issue that Doral officials knew could be, at least, embarrassing if revealed.

"We need to keep a very low key approach on this issue," Kasten wrote. "Please keep the existence of this arrangement confidential."

Ramsey says, "There's a lot of places you can easily connect the dots."

The documents also include a consulting agreement for "government affairs" services with Johnson Controls.

That's a heating and air giant that wanted Ford to help it win a contract with Erlanger Medical Center... a Chattanooga hospital with business before Ford's committee.

"Speaking personally, I do think that we have to take some drastic action on this," Ramsey says.

The criminal investigation involving Doral Dental is still continuing.

As we reported, two top executives appeared before a federal grand jury here in Nashville earlier this week.

There's no word on when we might expect indictments here.

Ramsey says that, when they adjourn, the adjournment resolution will contain language that will allow the Senate speaker to call senators back into session in a few weeks to take up ethics action against Ford -- and possibly others.

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