After Tough Audit, TN’s Real Estate Chief Responds: ‘We Do Not Concur. You Can Quote Me.’

Gov. Bill Haslam tours new offices of the Department of Environment and Conservation with former General Services Commissioner Steve Cates. Haslam has a goal of reducing the footprint of state offices by a million square feet. Credit: TN Photo Services

Gov. Bill Haslam tours new offices of the Department of Environment and Conservation with former General Services Commissioner Steve Cates. Haslam has a goal of reducing the footprint of state offices by a million square feet. Credit: TN Photo Services

Tennessee’s top government auditors found conflicts of interest in a deal that has resulted in a massive reshuffling of state offices. But those responsible for overseeing the private contract say they must agree to disagree with the audit.

It’s not that unusual for a state department to dispute an audit finding in part, but General Services deputy commissioner Tami Robison has a categorical rejection.

“We do not concur. You can quote me,” she said Thursday.

Robison brought on the firm Jones Lang LaSalle to give advice on maximizing office space. Ultimately, the company profited from what were supposed to be impartial recommendations, earning commissions for all the new leases that were signed as entire state departments relocated.

In a written response, the Department of General Services accuses auditors of having a “basic misunderstanding of the contract.”

“Well, [laughs] that’s their opinion. We believe that we did,” state Comptroller Justin Wilson said.

Wilson stands behind the audit, though he says he wasn’t directly involved. However, he points out no state laws were broken. The audit recommends departments should start following federal contracting standards, which restrict such conflicts of interest.

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