Judge Makes Sports Authority Vote Again on Stadium

Chancellor Ellen Hobbes Lyle ordered the Sports Authority to give five days notice before voting again on the soccer stadium construction contract.

NASHVILLE, TN – Chancellor Ellen Hobbes Lyle has invalidated the $218 million soccer stadium construction contract between Metro and Mortenson/Messer. The deal was approved at a meeting of the Sports Authority in August 2018 with just 48 hours notice. Five days notice is required so the public can comment. Unlike re-bidding the construction contract, which Lyle did not order, the “do-over” is just an inconvenience to plans to build a MLS stadium at the Fairgrounds.

The lack of public notice is symptomatic of a deeper corruption in Music City that has metastasized inside the body politic. It shows how the politically well-connected get special treatment from City Hall, City Council, and Metro departments.

City personnel did not award the voided contract impartially. At least one judge, who was not a Metro employee, had ties to the team. There were also non-voting  advisors involved in vetting the various proposals who had ties to the team. (See Mistakes.)

Lyle has not allowed the plaintiffs in the Fairgrounds lawsuit to question people involved in the bidding. If the allegations are true, and they are, somebody would likely go to jail.

However, District Attorney General Glenn Funk has not opened an investigation into the matter and probably won’t. His white-collar crime investigator has known about the details for months.

The committee that decided the winner didn’t even award the contract to the lowest qualified bidder. (See Fixed.)

Once a vocal critic of the stadium deal, Mayor John Cooper could have fired several people involved after he was elected in September 2019. But he didn’t act. And later he bowed to pressure from the Council and the Chamber of Commerce. Save Our Fairgrounds says he’s “gone over to the dark side”.

In April, Mortenson Construction agreed to pay a $650,000 fine for using inside information to get a contract to expand Denver’s Convention Center. The $233 million rooftop expansion project was halted in December 2018 after the Denver Post exposed the bid-rigging. What happened in Nashville is arguably much worse.

Mortenson did not have to admit guilt in the Denver case but agreed to donate another $650,000 of in-kind services related to combating the COVID-19 pandemic. The Mortensen executives involved in the scandal have to donate their time in community service as part of the settlement.

While that is unlikely to happen in Music City, a December referendum could throw a monkey wrench into all the scheming and conniving that went into the soccer stadium deal.

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