Tag Archives: Bill Gibbons

Gibbons to lead new Public Safety Institute at University of Memphis

Soon-to-be-former Tennessee Safety and Homeland Security Commissioner Bill Gibbons will lead the new Public Safety Institute at the University of Memphis, reports the Commercial Appeal.

Gibbons will also serve as president of the Memphis Shelby Crime Commission, effective Sept. 1. Gibbons is leaving the state post on Aug. 31.

The Public Safety Institute is a joint venture of the Crime Commission and the U of M. It will be housed in the university’s School of Urban Affairs and Public Policy, and will draw on researchers from across the university, officials said.

Gibbons said he hopes to focus on “best practices in fighting crime” as well as evaluating current methods of combating crime.

“It is a challenge, but I do not accept the notion that our current crime rate is inevitable, that it’s something we have to live with. I reject that notion,” Gibbons said.

Bill Gibbons leaving as TN safety commissioner

News release from the governor’s office
NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today announced Department of Safety and Homeland Security Commissioner Bill Gibbons will leave the administration at the end of the summer.

Gibbons has led the department since the start of the administration in 2011 and has also served as the chair of the Governor’s Public Safety Subcabinet. Under Gibbons’ leadership using a data-driven approach, traffic fatalities in Tennessee have decreased – five of the six lowest years in the last 50 years have happened under this administration. He also directed improvements to the driver services division, including the addition of new technology, that have resulted in the average wait time dropping from 35 minutes in 2011 to less than 20 minutes and better customer service for Tennessee taxpayers.
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Senator suggests legal challenge to refugees in TN

State Sen. Kerry Roberts, R-Springfield, is asking Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery to explore the possibility of a lawsuit against resettlement of refugees within Tennessee because the federal government has not complied with a requirement in federal law for regular consultation with state officials on the issue.

Further from Breitbart News:

Roberts was one of several members of the Tennessee General Assembly who participated in a a joint meeting of the Senate State and Local Government Committee and the House State Government Committee in Nashville who heard the startling testimony from Gibbons.

“Under federal law, the Director of the Office of Refugee Resettlement, which is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and the Department of State’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration are required to consult on a regular basis not less than quarterly, with state and local governments, and private non-profit voluntary agencies, concerning the sponsorship process and, importantly, the intended distribution of refugees among the states and location before the placement in those states and localities,” Gibbons testified.

“So far, to this point, we feel there has not been adequate compliance with this mandate under federal law,” he added.

“To our knowledge, there has been no regular consultation with the executive branch in [Tennessee] state government regarding the resettlement and placement of refugees within our state,” Gibbons stated.

Senator Roberts asked Gibbons if the federal government had given the state of Tennessee a reason why they are not fulfilling their statutory obligation to consult with the state.

“No sir,” Gibbons responded.

…An excerpt from Robert’s resulting letter to the AG:

As we’ve learned from Texas’ failed attempt to compel the federal government to consult, I hold little hope that Tennessee – a Wilson-Fish state which has opted out of the refugee resettlement program – can compel the federal government to consult with us.

Therefore, I believe it is in the best interest of the State of Tennessee to mount a constitutional challenge to the U.S. refugee resettlement program.

…I believe we have a duty to explore all meritorious options. The Thomas More Law Center has prepared a constitutional challenge and is willing, pro bono, to assist or represent the State of Tennessee in the lawsuit should Governor Haslam agree to serve as plaintiff. I strongly urge you to pursue this option.

Sentencing task force recommendations draw criticism

Groups that represent African-Americans, prison inmates and defendants are saying they were locked out of a state task force on repeat offenders, according to WPLN. They want Gov. Bill Haslam to give them a seat at the table.

The Tennessee chapter of the NAACP is one of the organizations that says it should have been included in the Governor’s Task Force on Sentencing and Recidivism. But the NAACP’s Lakeilia Johnson says the group wasn’t even told at first that the task force existed. And so now they’re upset with its final report.

“It’s just common sense,” Johnson says. “If we increase the sentences, we are not letting people out of jail. We’re keeping more people in jail, and they’re going to be compiled on top of each other.”

Johnson says the task force instead should have focused on the reasons many people are locked up to begin with. It’s often not because they’re hardened criminals. It’s because they fail to do to things like pay their traffic tickets on time.

…. Activists say too many prosecutors and law enforcement officials wrote the task force’s recommendations. They say Haslam should give groups that work with defendants and prisoners a chance to make their case before acting.

In a separate post, WPLN reports that Safety Commissioner Bill Gibbons, who chaired the Haslam-appointed task force, isn’t backing down.

“We heard, again and again from law enforcement, about individuals who commit one home burglary. They’re right back in the neighborhood within months, and we understood that concern.”

But Gibbons and other members say those tougher penalties should be weighed against other recommendations.

The report calls for setting firm release dates for all criminals. Right now, those decisions are left to the state’s parole board, which is sometimes criticized for being too tough.

The task force also calls for continuing to support drug, mental health and veterans courts. And it wants to increase supervision for everyone who’s released from prison, including those who have served out their time.

Haslam takes first steps toward revising military security

News release from the governor’s office:
NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, along with Adjutant General Max Haston and Safety and Homeland Security Commissioner Bill Gibbons, announced today temporary security measures and an accelerated handgun carry permit process for members of the military.

Following Haslam’s directive in the wake of the tragic shooting in Chattanooga last week, the Tennessee National Guard, starting on July 20, temporarily repositioned its soldiers in storefront recruiting locations to local National Guard armories, allowing the review of the storefront facilities and what additional security measures are necessary to improve security at these locations.

The Department of Safety and Homeland Security streamlined the handgun permit application process for members of the military, and the department is working with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, which conducts criminal background checks on all handgun permit applicants, to help with the process.
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Safety comish creates, fills new chief of staff position

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Safety Commissioner Bill Gibbons has named David McGriff to the newly-created position of chief of staff to the agency that oversees the Tennessee Highway Patrol.

McGriff served as an interim deputy commissioner in the department in 2011, and as a consultant on the agency’s driver services centers from 2013 to 2014. The position pays $122,000 per year.

As chief of staff, McGriff will serve as Gibbons’ top adviser and oversee day-to-day operations for the department.

McGriff, a former marine, began his career as a police officer in Columbia in 1969 before joining the Memphis Police Department in 1974. He later worked for the Drug Enforcement Administration and as an investigator for the Shelby County District Attorney’s Office.

Protester rights argued in Occupy Nashville hearing before special panel of judges

By Brett Barrouquere, Associated Press
CINCINNATI — A special three-judge panel focused on issues of camping, protests, free speech and executive power on Monday during arguments in an appeal of a lawsuit brought by Occupy Nashville protesters arrested on War Memorial Plaza in October 2011.

The panel hearing the case in at the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati and made up of judges from around the country questioned whether Tennessee officials acted properly in imposing a last-minute curfew for the plaza and in arresting those who refused to leave War Memorial Plaza in Nashville in October 2011.

“Is camping speech?” Judge Kent Jordan asked attorneys for two Tennessee officials.

U.S. District Judge Aleta Trauger last year ruled that Tennessee Safety Commissioner Bill Gibbons and former General Services Commissioner Steven Cates violated protesters’ rights when they promulgated a last-minute curfew for the plaza, then had those who refused to leave arrested. Attorneys for the state asked that the ruling be overturned. Even protected speech can be subject to reasonable time and place restrictions, she said.

Attorney Dawn Jordan, representing Gibbons and Cates and who is no relation to the judge, argued that the protesters had no right to stay on the plaza all day, every day.

Dawn Jordan argued that the job of the two officials to protect state property and maintain order. The curfew and arrests were necessary to deal with reports of crime, sanitation problems, trash and damage to the plaza in front of the state Capitol, she said.

“Occupying 24-7 is not a clearly established First Amendment right,” Dawn Jordan said. “The situation on the plaza reached a breaking point. Something needed to be done.”

David Briley, an attorney for the protesters, told the judges there were easier and more narrowly tailored ways to handle the protesters and any complaints they may have had about the conditions and safety on the plaza.

By applying a curfew to all gatherings on the plaza and doing it without a chance for the public to comment on the proposed regulation, the state went too far, Briley said.

“If they had done it with the proper procedures, what would be wrong with it?” Judge David Sentelle asked.

“It’s improper,” Briley replied. “We don’t know what a gathering means. It doesn’t define what occupancy is.”

“This is what trespass laws do,” Judge Duane Benton said. “They get to the presence somewhere.”

Judges Jordan, based in Philadelphia with the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals, Benton, of the St. Louis-based 8th Circuit, and Sentelle, with the Washington, D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, were appointed to the case because Gibbons is married to 6th Circuit Judge Julia Smith Gibbons and all the judges in the circuit have recused themselves.

The Occupy movement began in lower Manhattan in September 2011 with the idea of bringing attention to wealth inequality and corporate influence in government. Occupy Nashville protesters began camping outside the Capitol on Oct. 8. At the time the plaza had no rules governing when or how long citizens could demonstrate there.

By the third week, some homeless people who were not part of the protest had begun camping on the plaza. Protesters grew concerned about sanitation and crime. A delegation met with Cates to express their concerns.

Cates told the protesters they would have to leave the plaza at night. Then he had a curfew and use policy drawn up that the state put into effect the following day.

Protesters who refused to leave were arrested in the early hours of Oct. 28 and again on Oct. 29, but both times, the Judicial Commissioner refused to sign the warrants and the protesters had to be released. They asked for and received an injunction, barring the state from enforcing the new policy.

The state eventually adopted a less restrictive policy, and the Legislature passed a law banning camping on state-owned property not specifically designated for that purpose.

Judges step aside in appeal of Occupy Nashville protest

By Travis Loller, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. Two high-ranking Tennessee officials are asking a federal appeals court to rule that they did not violate the rights of Occupy Nashville protesters who were arrested on the War Memorial Plaza in October 2011.

U.S. District Judge Aleta Trauger last year found Safety Commissioner Bill Gibbons and former General Services Commissioner Steven Cates violated protesters’ rights when they promulgated a last-minute curfew for the plaza, then had those who refused to leave arrested.

In briefs filed with the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, state attorneys argue that Gibbons and Cates should be granted qualified immunity for their actions to disperse the protesters.

They say it was the job of the two officials to protect state property and maintain order. The curfew and arrests were necessary to deal with reports of crime, sanitation problems, trash and damage to the plaza in front of the state Capitol, they say.

“Plaintiffs’ 24-hour occupation of the War Memorial Plaza was not protected by the First Amendment,” they argue. And even protected speech can be subject to reasonable time and place restrictions.

Attorneys for the protesters argue the officials could have solved the problems at the plaza by providing portable toilets and increased security rather than seeking to shut down a political protest at “Tennessee’s quintessential public forum.” Cates and Gibbons should have known they were exceeding their authority when they approved a last-minute curfew that had not gone through the proper channels, and used it to evict Occupy Nashville.
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Commissioner getting chauffer service from THP?

Safety Commissioner Bill Gibbons is chauffeured by state Highway Patrol officers in commuting between his Nashville office and his Memphis home, reports WTVF-TV.

Typically, he has two officers involved – one driving him halfway to Memphis in the commissioner’s car with the other in a patrol car following behind. Then the driving trooper drops Gibbons off at Exit 108 on Interstate 40 and returns to Nashville with the officer who had been following. On one trip reporter Phil Williams says the troopers were clocked at better than 80 mph.

“Sometimes, if I have a lot of work to do, emails to answer and so on, then we do that,” the commissioner told NewsChannel 5 Investigates a few weeks ago.

…We pulled the paperwork, and email after email showed where the boss asked the THP if he could get “some transportation help.”

In one case, he cited his “exhausted state.”

Every time, Col. Trott and his team said “yes.”

“Is the commissioner treating troopers as chauffeurs?” we asked the colonel.

“No,” he answered. “We look at it as, we’re maximizing his time on the clock. He’s performing more duties for the Department of Safety and Homeland Security by us assisting him with transportation.”

In fact, those emails show that two troopers made the run to Exit 108 at least 31 times in a two-and-a-half year period. Officials agree it may have been more.

On at least two occasions, a second two-trooper team met the commissioner to drive him the rest of the way.

That’s a total of four state troopers just to get the commissioner home to Memphis.

“There would be times, very rare times, where he would want to be taken to Memphis in his car — not very often, very rarely did that happen,” Trott explained.

Still, he argued that it’s actually taking troopers, most of whom are normally assigned to administrative jobs, and putting them out on the roads.

More on TN foreign relations with Azerbaijan: Gibbons as diplomat?

Tennessee Commissioner of Safety and Homeland Security Bill Gibbons last fall sent Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev a letter of congratulations after his re-election in voting “widely seen by the international community as rigged,” reports WTVF’s Phil Williams.

And last year watchdog groups called Aliyev the corruption “person of the year.”

“That should be a shame that a high official in Tennessee with that kind of position he cannot find out on Internet how brutal he is, how many people they’ve got in jail. That is unbelievable,” Barsoumian added.

Asked if he had any regrets about writing the letter, Commissioner Gibbons said: “No, no regrets.”

The commissioner explained that he wrote the letter of congratulations at the request of a Memphis city official who’s interested in a role for Azerbaijan at the annual Memphis in May festival, which honors a different country each year.

“I did it as a result of that request,” he said.

“Did you consider that a real election?” NewsChannel 5 Investigates asked.

“Oh, I can’t really comment on the politics of Azerbaijan,” he replied.

But Gibbons and an assistant commissioner had joined a group of lawmakers last year in accepting a junket to Turkey and Azerbaijan, claiming they needed to learn more about the two countries to do their jobs.

That trip was financed by groups with ties to the moderate Muslim cleric Fetullah Gulen.

“Just from a strategic and national security standpoint, it’s an important country to us,” Gibbons said.

“Did you learn that elections are really not free there?” we followed.

“You know, I can’t really comment on the elections in Azerbaijan,” the commissioner continued.

Note: Previous post, on Rep. Joe Towns’ venture into Azerbaijan diplomacy, HERE.