City Council Set To Vote Next Tuesday On Resolution To Give Share Of Temporary Staffing To Newly Launched Firm, Though Long-Standing Company Has Signed Contract, No Complaints

Tuesday, October 10, 2017 - by John Wilson
Donna and Marty Lowe
Donna and Marty Lowe

A couple who have little experience with running a staffing service and who have twice filed bankruptcy are in line for a share of a $1.8 million annual city contract over three years - even after the city recently signed a sole contract with the longtime provider.

The City Council is set to vote next Tuesday on a resolution to keep Msi Workforce Solutions in the mix for the lucrative contract - after earlier voting to leave them out and after Rusty Hall, owner of Outsource Staffing, then signed a contract giving him the sole contract for the three years.

Mr. Hall, whose firm has done the work for the city for 11 years "with no complaints that I know of," said, "No one from the city contacted me saying this would go out for another vote.

I started making calls when I read about this in the newspaper this morning. I don't know how they can do this when I have a signed contract."  

The new resolution would have Outsource Staffing sharing the work and proceeds with the new firm headed by Marty and Donna Christian Lowe.

The contract is for a year with two one-year extensions.
 
Mr. Hall said he felt something was up when the contract came up for renewal last year about the time the Lowes opened their rival firm and the city asked him to take a six-month contract. He said the city later asked him to tear up the six-month contract and make it for three months. He said, "The red flags began to go up then."
 
Mr. Hall said at contract time this year that Msi submitted a bid, but he said he noticed that they planned to pay the same overtime rates as regular rates. He said he pointed out to purchasing officials that "that's illegal." He said he was told that the Msi bid would be thrown out due to the error.
 
However, he said he next was told there would be a completely new bidding process. He said it involved about a 30-page proposal and set a 100-point standard. He said, "Pricing was only 10 points and experience was just a small part." He said as a result of that process that city purchasing recommended both his firm and Msi for the work.
 
Mr. Hall said, "They don't have the experience for this job, but it seems like somebody at the city keeps trying to find ways to get them the contract."
 
Mr. Hall's father started a staffing business in 1995 and Rusty Hall began running the business in 2002. It is located in North Chattanooga. The city is one of its largest contracts - and some years the largest, Mr. Hall said. 

The Berke administration in September recommended adding the Lowe firm to the contract. However, Councilman Anthony Byrd on Sept. 26 made a motion to go with Outsource Staffing only. That passed 7-2.

However, Councilman Chip Henderson later asked for a revote that would include Msi Workforce Solutions. Councilman Darrin Ledford seconded the motion.

According to the Secretary of State's Office, Msi was formed Oct. 3, 2016 and there are no financial statements or audits showing it has done any work. The company did not get a local business license until this past Jan. 15.

Marty Lowe said after the first council vote he was "extremely disappointed" and said he was "optimistic that the recommendation will be fully approved and that MSi will be allowed the opportunity to provide its longstanding and excellent level of services to the city of Chattanooga." 

When the Lowes filed for bankruptcy on March 26, 2014, Marty Lowe was listed as a recruiter for Miller Motte Tech and Donna Lowe was unemployed. Her income included food stamp payments.

When they earlier filed for bankruptcy - in September 2010 - Marty Lowe was working for Sunshine Media Printing of Tucson, Ariz. Donna Lowe was again listed as unemployed, with income from collecting unemployment pay.

In the first bankruptcy that was confirmed in 2013, the couple left HomeEq Services of Sacramento, Calif., owed $138,958. There were also debts to Erlanger Health Systems ($984) and the city of Chattanooga ($414). Marshal Mize Ford was owed $6,989.

In the second bankruptcy, the Lowes owed $111,000 to Ocwen Loan Services of Iowa as part of $139,000 in debts. The Tennessee Valley Federal Credit Union was owed $1,791 and a city of Chattanooga bill was $984. Erlanger, which filed suit, was owed $920.

Trustee Ken Still asked that the second bankruptcy be dismissed saying the couple had already gotten bankruptcy protection once. That action was taken by Bankruptcy Judge Nicholas Whittenburg on Aug. 10.

As a result, the creditors are again free to sue the couple.

The couple's home in Harrison was listed as worth $180,000, but bankruptcy trustee Doug Johnson said he found no equity in the home that could be applied to paying off creditors.
 
At the time of the first bankruptcy, Ms. Lowe's parents had a claim against Donna Lowe for $64,921 of back child support dating back to 2002.
 
Marty Lowe is listed as president of the new staffing firm and Donna Lowe as senior vice president and chief operating officer.

Msi is listed as "a minority owned and operated firm" since Marty Lowe is black.

Msi last month sponsored a Success in the Workplace seminar along with the city's Youth and Family Development Department with a city official giving a three-hour talk.

Donna Lowe serves as co-chair for the Economic Development Committee for The Mayor's Womens Council of Chattanooga. 

Mayor Andy Berke has highly praised her, saying she "is known for being a champion for the underserved in our community." He said, “Chattanooga is a vibrant city because of its diverse perspectives. Engaged citizens like Donna elevate the voices of people in our community to ensure they are heard, Donna is a force and Chattanooga and all cities need more people like her to step up and help build more inclusive, fairer communities." 

Marty Lowe was named by new County School Supt. Bryan Johnson to his transition team.


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