Did Haslam Create a Conflict of Interest in Giving Sheriff’s Wife a Job?

The new head of a Tennessee agency that inspects and certifies jails will have authority over the jail run by her husband, Wilson County Sheriff Terry Ashe, reports Brian Haas.
Gov. Bill Haslam appointed Beth Ashe to be executive director of the Tennessee Corrections Institute, an agency devoted to training, maintaining standards and inspecting jails in Tennessee. The appointment already has drawn fire for being a potential conflict of interest because her agency holds the key to keeping Wilson County’s jail approved to house state inmates.
“Her agency is responsible for inspecting and certifying her husband’s jail,” said attorney Jerry Gonzalez, who has represented inmates in lawsuits — including suits against Wilson County’s jail.
“You don’t have to be a rocket scientist or an ethical philosopher to recognize that that is an inherent conflict of interest.” John Lachs, who actually is a professor of ethical philosophy at Vanderbilt University, agreed, saying Beth Ashe probably shouldn’t have been appointed in the first place..
“The obvious first thing to do is to not even create this perception of a conflict of interest,” he said. “You just avoid it.”
But the governor’s office, the institute’s chairman and Ashe herself defended the appointment, saying that any final decisions on jail matters are decided by the agency’s board, not her.
“I don’t see the connection,” Beth Ashe said. “I answer to the board of control, so they give me my direction.”

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