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Pody Questions State’s Contract to Outsource Motor Pool

An inquiry into contract outsourcing for the management of the state’s motor pool to Enterprise Rent-A-Car has left one state representative with more questions than answers.

And those answers may not come for another month Mark Pody, who sits on the legislature’s Joint Fiscal Review Committee, told TNReport.com.

Rep. Pody had said on Monday that he’d been told by state Department of General Services staff to expect more specific answers Tuesday. However, that didn’t happen, he said.

“I believe they’re giving me general information where I want more specific information, and I want to see where it’s documented and backed up,” said the Republican from Lebanon.

“Everything has been postponed until they come up in Fiscal Review to review the contracts next month,” Pody told TNReport.com Tuesday afternoon.

Fiscal Review is one of a handful of General Assembly committees that meet year-round. The committee convenes on the second Monday of each month. The next meeting will be July 8.

“I’m not comfortable with the stuff they’ve given me already,” said Pody, who is in his second term. “I’ve got to make them tell me why they believe it’s one way and the contract clearly says its something different.”

Pody, who owns a small company specializing in financial planning, said he was made aware of the contract — which he calls “not good business” — by Nashville’s NewsChannel 5 Chief Investigative Reporter Phil Williams.

“We want transparency in government that we know that our taxpayer dollar is being spent wisely, openly and everybody can follow through,” he told TNReport.com, something he doesn’t feel is happening with the Enterprise contract.

“I just see what’s in the contract and what’s being done is two separate entities. I’m not getting the answers that I’m looking for yet.”

Since Gov. Bill Haslam was elected to office in 2010, General Services Commissioner Steve Cates, a Brentwood developer, has overseen the transfer of certain state jobs and services to private companies,

Among these transfers was the state motor pool in 2011 when the Department of General Services decided to outsource the program to Enterprise and its car-sharing program called WeCar.

Around the same time, former Enterprise executive Kathleen Hansen was hired by Cates to head the department’s motor vehicle management division

According to a General Services’ internal memo, the state contract was not put out for bid for three reasons. First, the General Services memo seeking approval stated that “there is insufficient time to create the Request for Information, hold a pre-bid, create an Event, solicit bids, evaluate bids and award a contract by Jan. 1, 2012.”

Second, the memo stated that, “The rental of cars has not been solicited by the Purchasing Division in the past; therefore it does not have experience in developing the specifications.”

Lastly, the memo stated the state would it “piggy-back” on the “University of Tennessee’s WeCar” program, which was put out for public bid.

However, a statement submitted to NewsChannel 5 Investigates reads: “The University of Tennessee does not have a WeCar program,” but instead has a rental discount program with Enterprise for university employees and alumni only.

The UT motor pool has not been outsourced.

This statement, as well as the fact that the state’s contract calls for a fleet of 80 vehicles, but as of Tuesday only had 56 cars in it, causes Pody grave concern.

“The contract clearly calls for a minimum of 80 cars, and that’s what the state’s suppose to be paying for on a monthly basis,” Pody told TNReport.com Tuesday. “As of today, there’s only 56, and I cannot find any documentation where Enterprise or anybody else has agreed that we only pay for 56.

“There’s no paper trail to verify it. There’s just not. I don’t want us to get a bill at some point when this contract ends that says, ‘You’ve been paying now for $6 and the difference is some 20 cars.”

Additionally, Pody said while the “contract specifically calls for hourly rates in three separate spots,” General Services tells him there is no hourly rate. Instead, the state pays the daily rate of $31.33 and a weekly rate of $184.85, $26.60 more than the state of Oklahoma’s rate of $158.35.

Pody said he intends to ask his questions at the next Fiscal Review Committee meeting so he can go on record as having asked them in a public meeting.

Specifically, he wants to see the paper trail regarding the reduction of the fleet size, as well as written documentation explaining how much this has saved the state versus operating its own motor pool. He also wants a detailed explanation regarding the discrepancies between the UT statement and that of General Services regarding the “piggy-back” of the university’s contract.

Pody said he hopes to have some answers next week, well before the next Fiscal Review Committee meeting.

“It’s just me. I’ve got a month to finish getting my stuff together before they come before Fiscal Review,” he said.

Amelia Morrison Hipps may be reached at amhipps@downhomepolitics.com, on Twitter @DwnHomePolitics or at 615-442-8667.

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Featured Tax and Budget

Governor Signs Measure Paring Down Per Diem

Tennessee lawmakers living within a 50-mile radius of the Capitol can expect to see their daily lodging allowances drop in a couple years.

Gov. Bill Haslam signed House Bill 80 into law Friday. It won’t impact sitting legislators — only those elected in 2014 forward. The provisions of the bill cover 25 Middle Tennessee House districts and nine Senate districts.

The final House vote was 77-16, with 20 members whose districts will be affected voting in favor of the legislation. Of the 15 Democrats who voted against the change, only four of them will be affected. The other six Democrats whose districts are impacted voted yes, while all of the 12 Republicans voted yes. Rep. Brenda Gilmore, D-Nashville, did not vote at all. (See Votes by Legislators Affected by Per Diem box below.)

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Gilmore was paid $13,215.85. Of the House districts that will be impacted, that was the highest in travel and per diem expenses in 2012.(See chart below for how much affected representatives received in cumulative travel and per diem expenses in 2012.)

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Of all the Senate districts to be affected, Sen. Bill Ketron, R-Murfreesboro, had the highest travel and per diem expenses at almost $15,000. Sen. Douglas Henry of Nashville, who has served for 42 years in the Senate, received $8,953.62, but the veteran Democrat returns all of his expense payments back to the state, according to Legislative Administration’s website. (See chart below for how much affected senators received in cumulative travel and per diem expenses in 2012.)

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According to the new law’s fiscal note, HB80 would save the state $253,616, based on figures from in 2012, when 33 legislators lived within 50 miles of the Capitol. The savings will come primarily from the ineligibility of lawmakers whose primary residence is within a 50-mile radius of the Capitol to automatically receive $107 a day for a hotel room. Instead, they will receive receive mileage reimbursement at 46 cents a mile.

In addition, legislators who live within Davidson County will be able to calculate their round-trip mileage to the Capitol and receive reimbursement for it, something they are currently unable to do.

Unlike current statute, which allows the 34 lawmakers affected to receive mileage for only one round-trip per week, the new statute would apply to each legislative day in Nashville or any day, except Friday, that the lawmaker participates in any other activity in Nashville, but would be limited to one round trip per day.

All legislators will continue to receive $66 per day for meals and incidentals.

There are two methods for logging their legislative time in order to receive their allowed expenses.  One is by attending committee meetings or legislative sessions in the House or Senate, which records this attendance automatically. The other method is filling out paperwork with the details of what they did that day. These documents must receive approval from the House or Senate speaker.

Lawmakers who live within the 50-mile radius will still be allowed to stay overnight and be paid the $107 for lodging – provided they receive prior approval from the speaker of their respective chamber.

For more on the history of this issue, which dates back more than five years, go to TNReport.com and search the archives using the phrase “per diem.”

To find out your legislators’ per diems, as well as mileage payments and travel spending, go to the Legislative Administration website. While some legislators may not claim the allowance for every day they work, it will give you a rough idea. The online data goes back to 2009.

If you’re not sure who your representative or senator is, type in your address at this “Find My Legislator” database, and you’ll find out.

Amelia Morrison Hipps may be reached at amhipps@downhomepolitics.com, on Twitter @DwnHomePolitics or at 615-442-8667.