Attorney says Ford helped company win business outside Tennessee

An attorney for state Sen. John Ford of Memphis says his client earned money by helping a company win business in other states. Ed Yarbrough of Nashville told WTVF-TV that Ford would have shared in consulting fees paid by Doral Dental Services. The lawyer said he was sure that Ford was not paid for anything related to the state of Tennessee, TennCare or the state Legislature. "From a legal perspective, Sen. Ford should not be in harm's way because there is no evidence to indicate that he has violated any law," said Yarbrough. Ford's dealings are being reviewed by the state Senate Ethics Committee, along with accusations that he doesn't actually live in the district he represents. Doral Dental hired Managed Care Services Group to promote its interests in landing a TennCare contract. Tax records from 2002 and 2003 show that Ford received $237,000 from Managed Care Services Group. Doral terminated its relationship with Managed Care Services Group soon after news reports revealed Ford's connection to the company. "The implication that somehow Sen. Ford was responsible for Doral getting a contract with Tennessee is completely false," Yarbrough said.

Republican Senate Leader Ron Ramsey, chairman of the Senate Ethics Committee, said he delivered a letter to Ford on Wednesday asking for his 2002 and 2003 income tax forms. Ford agreed to bring them back from Memphis on Monday. The ethics committee has not determined if there is "probable cause" for a full review of Ford's dealings. State investigators have said they also are looking into the situation. Yarbrough said Ford did not improperly or illegally profit from his position as a state legislator. "Do members of the Legislature do consulting work? Yes. Are they in industry? Yes. Does the fact that they are a member of the Legislature make them more attractive in their businesses? Probably," he said. "I don't think Sen. Ford has done anything substantially different from what his colleagues have done over the years."

(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)