Witness testifies that John Ford inexplicably reversed on contract

Witness testifies that John Ford inexplicably reversed on contract

Posted: Friday, July 11, 2008 6:41 pm
By: AP

NASHVILLE (AP) — A former top executive with a dental company seeking an exclusive contract with the state testified that John Ford came out in support of the contract after a private meeting with the company’s CEO. Lisa Kinakin, former executive director of Doral of Tennessee, testified on Thursday that at a public meeting the former state senator railed against the idea of giving one firm responsibility for all of the state’s TennCare dental needs, but later changed his mind. The Memphis Democrat is accused of taking more than $800,000 from TennCare contractors Doral and Omnicare to advance interests of both companies in the legislature. Testimony Wednesday showed that the bank account of John Ford & Associates received $433,508 from Doral. Kinakin said she and Doral CEO Craig Kasten met with the former state senator in his Memphis office for about five minutes in the spring or summer of 2001. Afterward, Kasten and Ford met privately for about 25 minutes, she said. She did not know what they discussed. Afterward, Ford reversed his position on giving the TennCare dental contract to a single company, coming out in support of Doral at a TennCare Oversight Committee meeting, she said. “What was your reaction to having heard that?” Assistant U.S. Attorney David Rivera asked. “I thought, ‘Wow,’ that’s strange,”’ Kinakin said. Under cross-examination by Ford’s attorney — Assistant Federal Public Defender Isaiah “Skip” Gant — she acknowledged that Ford changed his mind after the company reached out to educate him on Doral’s accomplishments. Doral did land an exclusive contract with Tennessee. However, Kinakin said she believed that it was awarded because the company underbid its only competitor and was more qualified. Gant has said that while Ford did paid consulting work for Doral Dental of Mequon, Wis., and Memphis-based Omnicare, that work was largely outside the state and therefore not illegal nor improper. Ford’s defense believes Kasten can help him show that to the jury, but Kasten is refusing to testify unless prosecutors agree to grant him immunity. In a hearing Thursday morning, Gant asked U.S. District Judge Todd Campbell to force prosecutors to grant that immunity. The judge said he would rule on the matter later. Stephen Harris, the Chief Financial Officer for United American Healthcare, the parent company of Omnicare, also testified Thursday. He said UAHC entered into a contract with John Ford & Associates in April 2001. The agreement said the company would pay Ford $17,000 initially and $8,500 a month. Harris said the vast majority of the company’s income came from Omnicare of Tennessee. The testimony came during the second week of Ford’s federal corruption trial in Nashville. A Memphis jury convicted Ford last year of taking $55,000 in bribes in a separate corruption case. He is currently serving a 5 1/2 year sentence for that conviction. Published in The Messenger 7.11.08

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