ATLANTA — E-mail exchanges show a state official and a real estate broker who were fraternity brothers in college swapped information on a questionable state deal worth as much as $25 million, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported Sunday.
The official has since been fired, but the broker denied that their relationship was behind a company he represented winning the state deal.
The Journal-Constitution reported that former state leasing manager Thad Jackson and broker Steve Tedder exchanged e-mails with information about a lease deal. The newspaper obtained the correspondence through an open records request.
The deal involved a long-term lease for office space for the Division of Family and Children Services in Gwinnett County.
Prominent Gwinnett developer Brand Properties, which was represented by Tedder, submitted the winning bid after a process that included Tedder providing Jackson with a spreadsheet on the state’s various bid options. The paper reported it was unclear how much influence Jackson had in awarding the contract.
The lease has since been put out for bid again.
Jackson and Tedder, who both live in Atlanta, were fraternity brothers at Vanderbilt University and exchanged e-mails talking about both the lease business and college sports, their children and family vacations.
Jackson was fired by the state in March, and a lawsuit is pending over the deal. He did not respond to numerous requests for comment.
Tedder, 40, said his relationship with Jackson did not influence the bidding process.
“Thad Jackson is a good friend that I’ve known since we attended college together,” he said in a statement to the newspaper. “To the best of my knowledge, my relationship with Thad did not provide us with any advantage in the bidding process.”
Neither Jackson nor Tedder has been charged with any offense, but the Georgia Bureau of Investigation is reviewing the bid process.
Brand Properties chief executive Brand Morgan denied any wrongdoing connected with the bid but acknowledged that he knew Tedder was friends with the properties commission official handling the lease. Morgan said he had not previously worked with Tedder.
A lawsuit was filed by a losing bidder two months after Brand Properties won the lease. Fred Hand III, president of Hand Properties, alleges that Jackson gave Brand Properties an advantage by slipping inside information to Tedder.
The lawsuit also alleges that Gwinnett Commissioner John Heard approached Hand and demanded money to deliver the lease. Heard has repeatedly denied any extortion.