State auditor investigating La Vergne’s choice in HAZMAT company

(Photo: WKRN)

LA VERGNE, Tenn. (WKRN) – The Tennessee Comptroller’s Office is investigating the city of La Vergne because of who it chose to handle its hazardous materials.

Before their meeting Tuesday night, the aldermen and mayor were interviewed by a state auditor, separately and privately.

The investigation stems from a vote back in September. Four companies bid to handle La Vergne’s HAZMAT services but the lowest bid, submitted by Premier Protective Services, wasn’t accepted by the Board of Aldermen.

(Photo: WKRN)

Usually, a city or county will look to hire the company with the lowest bid in order to save the taxpayer’s money.

Alderman Jason Cole, the only one who voted for Premier, believes the reason why his fellow Aldermen didn’t vote for Premier is personal.

“I think personal feelings against Mr. Church were paramount in that decision,” said Cole.

He’s talking about Matt Church, an employee of Premier, who has had some run-ins with city officials.

He has been escorted out of public hearings before, and in February 2016, he handed out bagged, raw sewage to the Board of Aldermen and Mayor.

“Here’s one for you,” Church said as he handed them out. “What you’re looking at is a sample of the human waste that is still on the property. That’s raw material that came out of your system. It’s double bagged, it’s safe. It’s not affecting anyone’s desk. But when you’re living in it, it has a lot of hazards.”

Church was referring to Gertrude Phillips’ property. News 2 actually interviewed her in January of 2016 when her home was flooded with raw sewage due to a clogged city sewer pipe.

(Photo: WKRN)

Church cleaned her property for free but then scolded the Board of Aldermen for not taking responsibility.

Alderman Calvin Jones spoke with News 2 after he had his interview with the state auditor. He says Church’s stunt in February did affect his decision not to hire Premier.

“It was a small part in my decision,” said Jones. “Though I believe we did choose the right company, Matt Church has just shown himself to be disruptive and I don’t think that he would a good fit to represent the city.”

But Mayor Dennis Waldron says it didn’t influence his vote.

La Vergne Mayor Dennis Waldron (Photo: WKRN)

“We might not have to use a HAZMAT service in the next five or six years, but if we do need one, I think the citizens would want the best and the one with the most equipment that would get the job done,” Waldron said.

Even if it’s the more expensive, he noted.

The company that won the contract is called TPM.

News 2 reached out to Premier who said Church is still an employee and doesn’t blame him for their company not winning the contract.

News 2 reached out to the Comptroller’s Office for comment but a spokesperson could only say the office is allowed to audit and ask questions if a city or county doesn’t choose a low bid.