Gov. Bill Haslam has appointed Charles Traughber, who recently retired as chairman of the state Board of Paroles, to a seat on the Tennessee Ethics Commission, which will hear a complaint filed against Haslam in October.
“I think Charles has been around a while and there’s nobody who would question his ethics,” Haslam said.
Former state Democratic Party Chairman Chip Forrester, who filed a complaint with the Ethics Commission over Haslam’s failure to disclose personal payments to lobbyist and political operative Tom Ingram, certainly did not do so.
“I am pleased that the governor filled out the board and pleased that he chose someone of Mr. Traughbert’s caliber,” said Forrester in a telephone interview.
Forrester said Traughber has “demonstrated his commitment as a public servant for many years” and the appointment will bring “an impartial and thoughtful perspective” to the Ethics Commission.
Traugher retired July 1 after serving on the state paroles board since 1972 and as chairman for more than 30 years. He was married to the state Rep. Lois DeBerry, D-Memphis, who died this summer.
Traughber fills a vacancy for a Democratic commissioner to be appointed by the governor that has existed on the six-member commission since March 23. The panel is supposed to have three Democrats and three Republicans with Haslam responsible for appointing one of each.
Forrester’s complaint, also filed with the state board that enforces campaign finance laws, contends that Haslam should have disclosed personal payments for Ingram’s consultations because they involved politics. In effect, Forrester contends, the payments were self-financing of the governor’s reelection campaign and state law requires candidates to disclose how much of their own money goes into a campaign.
Haslam has said the advice he got from Ingram on politics was “miniscule” and the consulting was mostly on state governing matters and “Washington issues.”
The complaint is scheduled for discussion at the next meeting of the commission, Oct. 7. Under state law, Traughber must go through a training class prior to assuming the post.
Alexia Poe, the governor’s communications director, said Traughber “is well-respected and seen as a person of integrity not only within his own party but broadly.
“The governor had an appointment to make for this position and has done so. The complaint is a separate issue,” Poe said in an email.
“There are statuatory requirements for this position that we don’t have with a lot of other appointments… so that factoed into the proces along with finding someone well-respected,” she said. “We asked Charles if he was willing to serve in that capacity, which is customary when the governor makes appointments, and he was willing to serve.”