Tennessee House Democrats are now joining the political fight over coronavirus relief spending, following recent attacks on Nashville by Gov. Bill Lee and House Republican legislative leadership.
After Lee earlier this month denied Nashville Mayor John Cooper’s request for an $82 million portion of the state’s federal coronavirus relief funds — money that would be on top of $121 million the city already directly received from the federal government — House Speaker Cameron Sexton, R-Crossville, last week asked the state comptroller to review Nashville’s spending of COVID-19 stimulus dollars.
But on Tuesday, in a letter spearheaded by Rep. John Ray Clemmons, D-Nashville, half of the House Democratic Caucus requested from Comptroller Justin Wilson an audit of their own: looking at the Lee administration’s spending of federal coronavirus funds.
In addition to billions of other dollars in earmarked COVID-19 stimulus funds, Tennessee received $2.3 billion in from the federal Coronavirus Relief Fund, which allows states and some cities broad flexibility in how the money is spent.
“Our sincere fiscal concerns stem from the Lee administration’s well-documented history of awarding no-bid contracts to vendors,” Clemmons wrote.
He cited the administration’s award of a $1.2 million annual contract with ClassWallet. Awarded before the pandemic, the agreement with the Florida-based company was reached outside of the state’s established procurement process. The state hired the company to administer Tennessee’s education savings account program.
Clemmons then referenced tens of millions of dollars in expenditures using coronavirus relief funds, including more than $8 million in a no-bid contract to North Carolina-based sock company Renfro. Tennessee hired the company to produce 5 million masks that