Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam is sidestepping questions over a state audit that found problems with an already-controversial real estate contract. Instead, he’s talking about how much money that contractor is saving the state.
Jones Lang LaSalle was the winning bidder for a million dollar job advising the state on how to manage office space. That contract ballooned to more than $7 million. And ultimately, the Chicago-based real estate firm recommended a complete reshuffling, including the demolition of the historic Cordell Hull building. The new leases will earn the company many millions more in fees and commissions.
The audit suggests a contractor can’t be trusted to give impartial advice on real estate when it stands to gain from moving people around. Governor Haslam’s administration responded in writing to the audit by suggesting the Comptroller has a “basic misunderstanding of the contract.” Asked by reporters, Governor Haslam was careful not to endorse any specific findings.
“Any new project that is this large and something this new, can the process work better? Yes. I think we’d say the answer to that is yes.”
Since questions arose months ago, Haslam has focused on the benefits of reorganizing and consolidating state offices, which he estimates will save the state more than $100 million over time.