Tennessee prisons awarded a commissary contract to a company whose president was romantically involved with the corrections system purchasing director, reports the Tennessean. The state terminated the deal, citing complaints about the company’s performance, on July 31, six days after the Tennessean inquired about it. The state began an internal review in response to the newspaper’s questions.
Martin Jennen, the president of American Commissary Supply–US, said he had started seeing purchasing director Lola Butler months before the commissary contract was awarded. He said she didn’t help him get the contract. Butler did have some oversight role in the administration of the contract. Seeing the problems created by such a relationship should be a “no-brainer” for state officials, and Butler should have been removed from any involvement with the contract once she disclosed the relationship, said Megan Barry, a corporate ethicist and member of the Metro Ethics Commission. “State government around here still amazes me with how it operates toward conflicts of interest,” Barry said. “People just don’t get it.”