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AG: Parks outsourcing perfectly legal

But opinion states that State Building Commission needs to approve outsourcing plans

authors Cari Wade Gervin

Attorney General Herb Slatery’s office has issued an opinion on outsourcing facilities and concession management in state parks, and it has determined that such a move is indeed authorized under state law.

However, per the opinion, any outsourcing by the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation of its parks would first need to be approved by the State Building Commission — a provision that was not in the recent request for proposals to tear down and rebuild the Inn at Fall Creek Falls, which may be why the RFP was suddenly put on hold last week.

“[T]here is separate statutory authority, namely Tenn. Code Ann. § 12-2-116(a)(1), that does apply and that specifically allows the TDGS commissioner, with the approval of the State Building Commission, to enter into agreements concerning state-owned or state-controlled lands and facilities, such as the proposed RFP and Concession Contract for the operation of Fall Creek Falls State Park,” the opinion states.

The opinion was requested by state Sen. Janice Bowling (R-Tullahoma), who is opposed to the outsourcing effort. She had pointed to a different part of state law that states:

Notwithstanding any law to the contrary, the commissioner of environment and conservation has the authority to cause to be purchased and to develop the method for purchasing, without the approval of any other agency of state government, services, raw materials, merchandise or resale, supplies and equipment necessary for provision of quality services for state park operations. This section shall not be construed to allow the department to contract for services previously accomplished for the parks by state employees or for services that could reasonably be expected to be accomplished by state employees.

Slatery’s opinion, however, says that, “Taken in context, then, the last sentence of [the above code] does not prohibit all contracts for services for state park operations that have been or could be performed by State employees; it just prohibits TDEC from entering into such contracts on its own outside the otherwise required procurement process through the Department of General Services.”

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