It's a bad day for state officials in the crosshairs of I-Teams.
First, in a release so well-timed for sweeps that it hardly seems possible, the state comptroller's office issued an audit report sharply critical of the Haslam administration's handling of property management and a contract with Jones Lang LaSalle. The report confirms a lot of what Scoopageddon himself, NewsChannel 5's Phil Williams, has been reporting over the last few months — namely, that the deal with JLL is a huge conflict of interest for the firm.
Oh, and it's worth millions, too.
Secondly, our Andrea Zelinski tells us that the state's corrections commissioner just completely ducked Channel 4's Jeremy Finley at the state's budget hearings.
We presume that Finley wanted to talk with Commissioner Derrick Schofield about his I-Team's work documenting cell phones at maximum security prisons.
At a press availability after the hearing, Finley kicked it off by asking about the TBI investigation into documents and video Channel 4 has aired.
"Can we talk about budget today?" Schofield said.
"We can ask about budget, but I've got questions for you as well about the cell phones," Finley said.
"We'll talk about budget. We'll do a separate for you," responded the commissioner.
Finley was satisfied with that. Then, post-interview, as Finley suggested they go further down the hall into the belly of the Capitol Building, the commissioner ducked into a nearby elevator and his flack said the commissioner only wanted to talk about budget today and would talk with Finley another time.
Following a series of Channel 4 I-Team investigations that revealed how Tennessee inmates were documenting their wild behavior in prison, a prisoner inside Riverbend contacted chief investigative reporter Jeremy Finley with an proposition: did we want to see how inmates were smuggling cell phones into the maximum security prison?
Inmate David Faulkner and his fiancé, Sandy Jordan, first tried to share their information with the state department of correction hoping if he shared what he knew, he could get moved out of Riverbend and into another prison.
"They (correction officials) basically kind of laughed at me. They didn't feel like there was credence to this," Jordan said.
Faulkner began sharing information with the Channel 4 I-Team, including showing how easily he has cell phone access. Faulkner sent photographs of his cell and of himself holding his phone.
Faulkner and Finley had dozens of phone calls to document his ability to get phones and how often he was having conversations with someone outside his prison cell about obtaining phones.
Zelinski relayed from the Hill: "Anytime I see Finley up here, people are running from him. The first time was a year ago when he was hunting down General Services Commissioner Steve Cates."
That's a nice confirmation of their work for two of the better TV reporters in town.