state employees

New outsourcing contract gives JLL a bonus if cost-cutting exceeds expectations

Jones Lang LaSalle’s new contract potentially covers work now performed by about 3,000 state employees who are supposed to keep their positions though the pact gives the company a financial incentive to cut costs as much as possible, reports the Nashville Post.

The contract doesn’t specify an actual number the state will be paying JLL to pay other subcontractors for custodial, landscaping and maintenance work at state universities and agencies across Tennessee, as that will depend on how many campuses opt in or out of the contract. And how much JLL will get paid will also depend on the company meeting benchmark goals and customer satisfaction metrics.

However, the contract also includes a clause that awards JLL 10 percent of any cost savings above and beyond its projected baseline savings in the first year. After that, the percentage decreases each year by one percent, down to 1 percent of savings awards in year 10 of the contract. (The five-year contract has the option of being expanded another five years before the state would have to rebid it.)

…”That’s to reduce operational costs. If you look, it specifically prohibits a reduction in force, period. They cannot reduce the force,” said Mike Perry, the state’s chief procurement officer, during a press conference Thursday.

Yet the terms of the contract include multiple loopholes as to who can be considered “transition employees” and continue on with the subcontractors JLL will hire. Employees must have worked for the state for over 6 months at 30 hours a week or more and be considered to “provide services selected to be performed by the Contractor at a minimum of” 51 percent of their job duties. They must pass whatever background checks JLL deems necessary, along with a drug test. Currently the state does not require either for the majority of its positions.

…Even if employees do pass all the required checks, there’s still no guarantee they’ll be offered the same job, at the same campus. The contract only requires a position be offered in a 50 mile radius. Rehired employees are supposed to be given equitable compensation, but in JLL’s own bid proposal, it admits that an employee with a family of four would have their health insurance premiums double and the out-of-pocket max increase by $2,150. Meanwhile, paid time off will decrease. (A single employee’s health insurance costs will go down, the proposal says.) An employee would ostensibly be paid more to make up for the higher health insurance costs and lack of vacation time, but Perry admitted he had no idea how this would work in practice as far as taxes go.

Note: The post has a copy of the contract posted HERE.

An update on officers stabbed in prison uprising

News release from Department of Corrections

NASHVILLE – One of the three officers assaulted during (Sunday’s) disturbance at Turney Center Industrial Complex has been released from the hospital.  Officer Lester Ball was treated and released overnight.  Officers Jesse Shockley and Paul Nielsen remain hospitalized in stable condition.

The Department continues to work closely with other law enforcement agencies including the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, which we have asked to conduct its own independent investigation into the events.

Continue reading

Three guards injured in TN prison inmate uprising

Three corrections officers were injured, including one held hostage for about three hours, in a Sunday inmate uprising at Turney Center state prison, located about 60 miles west of Nashville in Hickman County.

Continue reading

Three state correction officer suicides reported in one month

Three officers with the Tennessee Department of Correction have died by suicide in just this past month, according to an internal memo sent to employees and reported by the Nashville Scene.

 

The department is not releasing the names of the individuals “out of respect and deference to the families,” according to TDOC spokesperson Alison Randgaard.

“We are devastated by the loss of our colleagues which is reflected in Commissioner [Tony] Parker’s letter to staff,” Randgaard wrote in an email.

…In the memo sent Wednesday from Parker, he urges employees to take an account of their personal stress level. The department has struggled in recent years to fully staff its prisons, causing safety issues. It faced an exodus of correctional officers two years ago after drastically changing scheduling.

TN Supremes: Judges can fire employees at will

News release from Administrative Office of the Courts

Nashville, Tenn. – The Tennessee Supreme Court has ruled that the position of trial judge secretarial assistant is subject to the employment-at-will doctrine that generally applies in Tennessee.  The Court’s holding means that either the trial judge or the person employed in the secretarial assistant position may terminate the employment relationship at any time during the trial judge’s tenure.  If the employment relationship is not terminated earlier, then the employment relationship ends automatically when the trial judge’s tenure ends.

Continue reading

Fall Creek Falls Park privitization to proceed with revised oversight

The State Building Commission will now have firmer control over building-related aspects of Republican Gov. Bill Haslam’s plans for outsourcing Fall Creek Falls State Park’s operations under amended rules for bidders approved on Thursday, reports the Times-Free Press.

But Treasurer David Lillard, a commission member, made it clear during the commission’s executive subcommittee meeting that the panel’s oversight jurisdiction does not extend to the request for proposals’ other major area: The outsourcing of hospitality functions at the popular Upper Cumberland Plateau park in Van Buren and Bledsoe counties.

Statutorily, those are “not within the Building Commission’s purview,” Lillard said, noting the excluded list includes current workers’ continued employment, pay and benefits in operational areas ranging from the park inn, restaurant and convention center to the golf course and gift shop.

But the SBC will retain strict oversight within provisions of the request for proposals over the park’s chosen vendor, who will be called upon to spend $22 million in taxpayer money to tear down the existing inn and rebuild it.

Members unanimously approved the tighter oversight in efforts to resolve a revolt by professional Tennessee-based architects and engineers.

…Critics see the revised request for proposals as the template for renewed administration efforts. Haslam’s proposed budget calls for new capital expenditures at several other parks.

Rep. John Ray Clemmons, D-Nashville, an outsourcing critic, said the amended request for proposals provides “more legislative oversight” over the park’s demolition and construction.

Note: The TDEC press release is below.

Continue reading

AG opinion sought on legality of Fall Creek Falls privatization

Sen. Janice Bowling, R-Tullahoma, whose district includes the 26,000-acre Fall Creek Falls State Park, has requested a legal opinion from Attorney General Herbert Slatery on whether proper procedures were followed in plans to privatize park operations, reports the Times-Free Press.

The Tennessee State Employees Association also is raising questions about Republican Gov. Bill Haslam’s push to turn hospitality services over to a private operator at Fall Creek Falls, long considered the “crown jewel” of Tennessee’s park system.

Employees association Executive Director Randy Stamps, an attorney, told the Times Free Press he questions whether Haslam has the legal authority to go forward with the move.

“We believe they’re in such a big hurry to rush through this RFP [request for proposals] that maybe they overlooked some pertinent sections of state law,” said Stamps, a former Republican state representative.

Bowling said in an interview that employees asked her to seek the legal opinion.

“I’m glad to do that,” Bowling said. Park workers in her district have protested over fear for their jobs, and Van Buren County Mayor Greg Wilson worries about lost revenue for up to two years while a new lodge is built that a for-profit company would run.

“Confusion is always the enemy of good public policy,” Bowling said, “and so if we know in fact that’s following the code, that’s one set of information. If we know that it wasn’t, that opens up a different avenue. But we have to know. That’s foundational.”

Two Democratic lawmakers are convinced Haslam wants to privatize other state parks with similar amenities. Senate Minority Leader Lee Harris, D-Memphis, and Rep. John Ray Clemmons, D-Nashville, held a town hall meeting Friday in Spencer, the town closest to the park.

And Stamps said the statute dealing with state parks and contracting “appears to prohibit the outsourcing of state services without it being part of the master plan for parks.”

“At this time, we’re unaware that this is part of their master plan that’s been approved appropriately,” Stamps said.

“It could be that they overlooked the law,” he added. “It could be that they dealt with it in some way. But right now it appears they’re in violation of the statute.”

Eric Ward, spokeman for the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, said officials are on sound legal ground.

“TDEC hasn’t seen Sen. Bowling’s request, but we’re confident our proposed effort to ensure the long-term viability of Fall Creek Falls is well within our legal authority and we’re happy to answer any questions from the attorney general or members of the General Assembly related to this matter,” Ward said.

McNally makes more Senate staff appointments

News release from Lt. Gov. Randy McNally’s office:

NASHVILLE – Lt. Governor Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge) today announced additional staff appointments to the Office of the Lt. Governor and Speaker of the Senate. These appointments follow last week’s announcement of longtime McNally aide Rick Nicholson as Senate Chief of Staff.

Debbie Martin, Executive Assistant to the Lt. Governor

Lt. Governor McNally’s Executive Secretary for nine years, Martin will be involved in all aspects of Lt. Gov. McNally’s office and will serve as his chief scheduler. A 30-year veteran state employee, Martin lives in Hendersonville with her husband, Tracy. The Martins have one adult daughter and two grandchildren.

Continue reading

Legislature’s secret sexual harassment video reviewed by reporter

Cari Wade Gervin has a Nashville Scene review of the video that is required watching for state legislators and their staff but officially forbidden for viewing by the general public and media. Seems she simply found a staffer willing to let her watch as the video was playing. It’s reported as running 22 minutes, 56 seconds — somewhat longer than the 15 -minute length initially reported. (Previous post-HERE.)

Excerpt:

Entitled “It’s Up to You: Stopping Sexual Harassment for Employees,” the video outlines numerous scenarios that could be considered sexual harassment or that contribute to a hostile workplace. There is no interactive quality to the video — no questions to fill out, no quiz at the end, nothing at all to ensure the person watching the video actually paid any attention whatsoever. And although the staffer we watched it with did pay attention, being a scrupulous sort of person, we have heard that many other staffers are just playing the video in the background on mute and then printing out the certificate of completion at the end. It’s also been rumored that staff are “watching” their bosses’ versions of the video for them. (There’s a separate, different video of about the same length for anyone in a management position, which obviously includes legislators.)

Here are the scenarios deemed harassing in the poorly-acted sketches:

A female supervisor propositioning a male employee in order for him to be selected to attend a conference

A man telling a woman “nice rack”

A male employee sending a female employee a sexy Photoshopped picture of her

A male repeatedly and unwantedly asking a female coworker out

Two women ogling a younger male employee

A male hotel guest employee commenting on a maid’s derriere when she bent over to pick dirty towels off the floor

A woman getting passed over for a promotion in favor of a younger, prettier woman

A woman being passed over for a promotion because she’s pregnant

A male employee saying a female employee has no business doing their job because she’s a woman

A male massaging a female employee’s hand without her permission

Two male employees harassing a gay male employee for being effeminate

A male employee asking a gay male employee whether his pink shirt makes him look gay

A woman being transferred to another job in retaliation for complaining about being sexually harassed.

McNally names Rick Nicholson as Senate chief of staff, succeeding Lance Frizzell

News release from Lt. Gov. Randy McNally’s office

Lt. Governor McNally (R-Oak Ridge) today announced the appointment of Senate Chief of Staff Rick Nicholson.

“I have worked with Rick closely in his various roles with the legislature. Over his career, he has consistently impressed me with his knowledge and expertise. He is a trusted and professional policy advisor. His temperament, policy expertise and executive experience make him perfectly suited to serve the Senate as Chief of Staff. I am confident he will do an excellent job.”

A 26-year veteran of the General Assembly, Rick Nicholson started with the legislature working in the Chief Clerk’s office. He was appointed Assistant Chief Clerk of the Senate under Chief Clerk Clyde McCullough in 1998. In 2001, Nicholson went to work for then Chairman McNally as a committee research analyst. In 2012, Nicholson was appointed Senate Budget Director by Lt. Governor Ramsey.

McNally also praised departing Chief of Staff Lance Frizzell whose appointment expired in January. Frizzell is leaving the General Assembly to pursue other opportunities.

Continue reading