NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Lawmakers are calling for an investigation into no-tender contracts by Governor Bill Lee’s administration.

Emergency powers give the governor the ability to suspend financial guarantees when approving contracts, but some say there is abuse. Some of the deals being considered include giving a Republican lawmaker’s furniture store $165,000 for hospital gowns that were eventually canceled to accept a $75 million contract with Xtend Healthcare for the contact tracing, although it is a medical billing company with no experience in epidemiology.

There is growing frustration and a fight for oversight among lawmakers, like Sen. Heidi Campbell (D-Nashville), over spending coming from the executive branch.

“I think where there’s smoke, you fear there’s fire,” Campbell said.

She now wants Nashville District Attorney Glenn Funk to investigate.

“We just have to make sure everyone is doing what they’re supposed to be doing, because it’s our responsibility to make sure our money and our programs are held financially accountable,” Campbell said.

On Thursday, Funk signaled that he would request an investigation into the expenses.

“I am currently in the process of deciding which office or agency can best help me conduct this audit and the findings of the audit will be made public,” Funk said.

A $26.5 million contract was awarded to Utah-based Nomi Healthcare, but was terminated with a $6 million taxpayer buyout from the company. They had to provide PPE and COVID testing without prior experience.

“Of course we understand that, you know, in a pandemic and with emergency rules, there will be situations where you have to do that,” Campbell said. “What’s problematic is that a lot of the people who got those contracts had no experience.”

Pale Horse Global, a small security company, has been awarded a $13.5 million contract for PPE. Renfro Corp received $8.3 million for sock masks in North Carolina.

And lawmakers approved an additional $8 million, totaling $16 million, for a New York-based literacy program where Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn’s husband works.

Schwinn’s office did not respond to questions. Lee’s office also did not respond to questions about the potential investigation.


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