Our governor has received the Snark Bites treatment again from Scott McNutt, who sees a trend toward self-censure developing among politicians inspired by the recent reprimand of Knox County Commissioner Brad Anders. Hearing of Anders’ planned self-remonstrance, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam announced he was forming a team to study the feasibility of a gubernatorial self-censure because his agenda to transform Tennessee into an autocracy suffered a series of humiliating setbacks recently.
Haslam’s latest gaffes that merit self-censure include:
– His administration was found to have violated the First Amendment rights of Occupy Nashville protesters in 2011, in a judge’s strongly worded ruling.
– His scheme to lay off more than 200 state workers was thwarted by a judge’s restraining order.
– His administration’s decision to award a $330 million contract to a company in which he once invested is raising red flags among legislators.
– His practice of paying a political consultant who also lobbies the administration has raised questions from Democrats on the arrangement’s propriety.
– He had to again admit that, “Yes, Jimmy is my brother,” candidly.
To address these embarrassments, the task force will make recommendations about the self-censure’s appropriateness as a way to distract from the governor’s increasingly ugly track record in conducting the people’s business.
“I will study the task force’s recommendations, and then ponder, ponder, ponder and ponder,” he said. “And then ponder some more, until maybe the public has forgotten whatever it was I was pondering for.”
Also, President Barack Obama is now said to be considering a self-censure for letting his administration’s controversies control its news narrative, rather than vice versa, while promising “never to let it happen again.”
Excerpt from a Cleveland Plain Dealer story:
CLEVELAND, Ohio — R. Brad Martin was chief executive of Saks Inc. a decade ago when the luxury retailer was embroiled in a fraud investigation that found the company wrongly kept millions of dollars owed to clothing suppliers.
Martin today is the board member at Knoxville, Tenn.-based Pilot Flying J who will sign off on an internal investigation into whether Pilot kept millions of dollars in fuel rebates owed to trucking companies.
The similarities between the two cases and the close ties between Martin and Pilot CEO Jimmy Haslam — for years they’ve moved in the same social circles and their family summer homes are a stone’s throw from each other in the Smoky Mountains — make some question whether Martin can be objective about any findings of fraud at Pilot.
“At the very least there was a cloud over his tenure at Saks,” said Christopher Ideker, a forensic accountant who has participated in many audit committee investigations for companies. “To me, you have a guy calling the shots on an investigation about stealing from customers who was investigated for stealing from vendors. That seems pretty straightforward.”
Leland Wykoff, a shareholder with Saks and its predecessor for 15 years, said he quizzed Martin at Saks’ 2005 annual meeting about how clothing suppliers had been cheated. Wykoff said the CEO took responsibility for what occurred on his watch.
“I leaned forward,” Wykoff said Friday, recalling his conversation with Martin. “I pulled my glasses down on my nose and I locked eyes with him. There was a pregnant pause and I said, ‘Then why are you still here?’ You could have heard a pin drop.”
Haslam, owner of the Cleveland Browns, said he initially didn’t know about any rebate problems at Pilot but said the company’s investigation now shows that about 250 trucking firms are owed money. He suspended several sales managers and took other remedial steps after the April 15 raid by FBI agents on Pilot headquarters.
Chief among Haslam’s moves was his selection of Martin, 61, of Nashville, to oversee the internal investigation at the privately-held company, running on a parallel track to federal agents’ work.
Saks Inc., owner of the venerable Saks Fifth Avenue department store chain, came into regulators’ crosshairs around 2004.
…Saks ultimately settled the SEC complaint about its treatment of vendors without admitting or denying fault — shelling out about $60 million, according to C. Warren Neel, who was head of Saks’ audit committee.
Martin, CEO and chairman between 1989 and January 2006, was never charged in the wrongdoing. His brother Brian Martin, Saks’ general counsel, as well as two other executives, were fired over the scandal, though also never charged.
Neel’s committee found no direct failings among other senior officers. But the committee criticized the level of communication between Saks’ executive suite and board members, and recommended reducing or eliminating bonuses for Brad Martin and the company’s chief financial officer.
Martin stepped down as CEO in a management shakeup within months of the SEC settlement.
Neel, who served as dean of the business school at the University of Tennessee for 25 years and had been invited by Martin to sit on Saks’ board, said the in-house examination was difficult and very uncomfortable.
“The social relationships for me were a major emotional problem,” he said. “I was with friends.”
Neel said he found no evidence that Martin’s brother or other executives “were a major part of the problem, but the SEC required that we do something.”
– Note: Gov. Bill Haslam was a Saks executive 1999-2001.
The start of a Knoxville Business Journal article on Mark Emkes, the recently departed state finance commissioner who may exemplify the kind of business-oriented guy Gov. Bill Haslam likes to have in state government:
Insofar as knowledge about operations goes, there was quite a contrast at the outset of Mark Emkes’ last two executive undertakings.
When he became CEO of Bridge- stone Americas Holding Inc. in 2004, Emkes says he had firsthand experience in virtually all aspects at the world’s largest tire manufacturer — from changing tires, his first job in a Texas Firestone store back in 1975, to subsequently managing company dealings in locales from the United Arab Emirates to Brazil. Firestone was acquired by Japan-based Bridgestone in 1988.
“You know everything they know,” Emkes recalls about managing the company’s thousands of employees in North and South America.
That was not the case when Emkes became CFO for the state of Tennessee, a position officially known as commissioner of the Department of Finance and Administration. That is the top position among the 22 commissioners hired by Gov. Bill Haslam.
“When I walked into this job, I didn’t know anything about state government,” Emkes says. “The learning curve is really steep.”
By Erik Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Brad Martin, the newly appointed interim president of the University of Memphis who once hired Gov. Bill Haslam as an executive at Saks Inc., was named Wednesday by Pilot Flying J to oversee an internal investigation into FBI allegations of fraudulent business practices involving rebates to trucking customers.
Martin is a board member of Knoxville-based Pilot, a private company owned mostly by Haslam family members. The country’s largest diesel fuel retailer is run by CEO Jimmy Haslam, the governor’s brother and owner of the NFL’s Cleveland Browns.
Federal agents on April 15 raided the Pilot headquarters, the building housing its computer servers and the homes of three sales executives. The FBI alleges members of Pilot’s sales team deliberately withheld rebates to boost Pilot profits and pad sales commissions. No criminal charges have been filed.
Bill Haslam was president of Pilot when he was hired by Martin in 1999 to start up online retail operations for Saks in New York. Martin said at the time that Haslam had “contributed substantially to the remarkable growth and success of Pilot,” which had grown from a single gas station into a $2 billion business. Pilot’s annual revenues today stand at $31 billion, according to Moody’s Investors Service.
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — Shelby County businessman and former Saks Inc. CEO Brad Martin will run the University of Memphis until a successor to retiring President Shirley Raines is found.
Tennessee Board of Regents Chancellor John Morgan appointed Martin to the temporary post Tuesday.
According to The Commercial Appeal (http://bit.ly/112uwYC), Morgan was ready for questions about whether a businessman could effectively lead U of M when he appeared before students and faculty members Tuesday.
“I believe he has a clear understanding of the value of the university and the role the university plays in society more broadly than simply the business connection,” Morgan told them.
During an interview at his East Memphis office, Martin said he will not be a candidate to succeed Raines and his mission is to maintain momentum
“There are a lot of good things going on the university, and during this transition period it’s important we do not miss a beat,” Martin said.
Martin said it was Raines who first approached him about becoming interim president and he agreed after discussions with Morgan, Gov. Bill Haslam and Regents Vice Chairman Greg Duckett.
Martin doesn’t see establishment of an independent board to govern the university as a job priority for him. Nor does he expect to argue against declining state revenue flowing to U of M.
“I wouldn’t count on that,” he said.
The better route would be to pursue grants, partnerships with private industry, internships and other support outside of government, Martin said.
Martin is a 1976 U of M graduate and chaired the school’s Board of Visitors and the University of Memphis Foundation Board.
He is a native of Columbus, Ohio.
While studying political science at what was then Memphis State University, Martin served as president of the Student Government Association. He eventually earned a bachelor’s degree, but it was interrupted when he was elected at age 20 to the Tennessee General Assembly where he served three terms in the House of Representatives.
Martin earned his MBA from the Owen Graduate School of Management at Vanderbilt University.
Former U.S. Congressional candidate Brad Staats was arrested early on Sunday morning after allegedly slapping his wife during a domestic dispute, reports The City Paper. Staats admitted to police that he “pushed his wife … down onto a bed then left the location,” according to a Metro Nashville Police Department affidavit. The report also indicates that Staats’ wife Bethany called police to their Hermitage home and told police Staats slapped her.
“Ms. Staats did have a red mark on her left cheek consistent with her statement,” the affidavit reads.
The former Republican candidate for Tennessee’s 5th District was booked into Davidson County Jail at 3:39 a.m. Sunday. Staats, 43, was charged with one count of misdemeanor domestic assault, posted a $5,000 bond and was released.
Staats, whose campaign site describes him as a “family matters” conservative, ran against longtime Democratic incumbent Congressman Jim Cooper in November’s election. Cooper won by more than 30 percent of the vote.
Brad Staats, the Republican opposing Democratic U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper, has fired his campaign manager and hired Jeff Hartline to replace him, reports Michael Cass. Staats, the Republican nominee, said he let John Shorter go because “the campaign just wasn’t going in the direction that I wanted it to go.”
“Several months ago, I wanted very badly to reach not only across party lines but out to some large minority groups that are here in Tennessee,” he said. “We’re now doing that.”
He added that he should have made the change earlier, as his wife had recommended, although he “enjoyed working with John.”
Asked if he was worried that his campaign might appear to be in disarray this close to the election, Staats replied, “I haven’t really given it a second thought. You just have to make the right decision. It has proved very quickly to be the right decision.”
Shorter declined to be interviewed but wrote in an email, “We have run a great campaign with very little resources, but it’s important for the team to be in unity. Both Brad and I had some disagreements with how the campaign should be run in the last month.”
A candidate who’s seeking to represent Nashville in Congress posted a photo of his gun and a pointed message for President Barack Obama on his campaign Facebook page, reports The Tennessean. Brad Staats, the Republican nominee challenging U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper in the 5th Congressional District election, posted the picture of the silver and black Colt 911 semi-automatic pistol on Friday. (Note: Believe that should be Model 1911, not 911.) Under it he wrote:
“Many people in Tennessee keep asking me about my opinion on Second Amendment rights. Apparently Tennesseans are part of that crazy crowd that Obama says ‘cling to (their) religion and guns.’ Well, then I must be part of that crazy crowd. Here is something that I usually have with me. Welcome to Tennessee Mr. Obama.”
…Staats said he was not threatening Obama, who is seeking re-election this year.
“Good Lord, no,” he said in a phone interview Monday afternoon. “Absolutely not. I’m not one of those that would ever threaten the president. He’s probably got enough of his own stuff to worry about without me.”
Max Milien, a spokesman for the United States Secret Service, which is responsible for the president’s security, had little to say about the post.
“We’re aware of it, and we will conduct any appropriate follow-up if necessary,” Milien said.
Republican Brad Staats hopes to channel public discontent with the federal health care reform law into a voter uprising to defeat Democratic Congressman Jim Cooper, who supported it. But The Tennessean reports he “could have a hard time” in one of the state’s last Democratic strongholds.” “People seem to be in a better mood than they were two years ago,” said Cooper, who survived the 2010 midterm elections that gave Republicans control of the House of Representatives and a 7-2 edge in the state’s congressional delegation.
Staats, who owns two security businesses, has never run for office before, while Cooper has served 11 terms in two different stints in Congress. The challenger’s campaign war chest, which he estimated at $55,000, is a small fraction of Cooper’s, which held more than $800,000 in July, the last time they filed reports.
Cooper said his opponent has been “almost invisible” so far, though he said he takes nothing for granted in a campaign. Political analyst Pat Nolan said he expects Cooper and everyone else in Tennessee’s delegation to be re-elected.
But Staats, while acknowledging his challenges, said the choice for voters in the5th Congressional District is clear. He said Cooper has tied himself to the health care reform law, which Staats describes as a vehicle that will drive the nation into a financial ditch.
“Any government that has ever reached 30 percent expenditure of their GDP (gross domestic product) has gone bankrupt,” he said. “With Obamacare, we will reach 30 percent expenditure within 18 months. That means America is bankrupt at that point. So, yes, I have a real problem with Obamacare, as all Americans, if they knew, should.”
Six days after Republican state senate candidate John Stevens admitted ripping up an unconscious widow’s last will, he released a statement Monday saying he was acting “on her wishes and her wishes alone.”
Further from the Commercial Appeal: Stevens’ Democratic opponent in District 24, Brad Thompson, last week circulated court filings involving the death and the estate of Huntingdon resident Ruth Keras. They included indications Stevens created a revocable trust on behalf of Keras, whose assets after her death were to be divided equally between Keras’ brother and Peggy Wilkes of Carroll County.
The will Stevens ripped up named St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital as a major beneficiary and hadn’t mentioned Wilkes.
…In his statement Monday, Stevens said the Thompson campaign’s suggestion of wrongdoing on his part “is a lie by a desperate campaign that is down double-digits. It is what you expect from an Obama-Pelosi Democrat.”
Stevens said Keras hired him in Huntingdon and “was fully competent … I was one of the last people Ruth met with. I carried out her wishes in the last days of her life. I acted on her wishes and her wishes alone.”
“Ruth wanted her will changed — for the third time,” the statement continues. “After she lost consciousness, the only legal option left open to me was to tear up her second will in her presence — as required by law … My sole purpose in this matter was to carry out Ruth’s wishes as expressed to me in the hospital in Huntingdon.
“The idea that Brad Thompson would cruelly use this for political gain is disgusting,” he added. “I carried out my duty as a lawyer.”
The statement does not address why Keras wanted St. Jude and Youth Town jettisoned as beneficiaries days before her death. St. Jude’s lawyers, in their lawsuit, maintained the change in beneficiaries was contrary Keras’ written instructions in 2002 and 2003, and contrary to her late husband’s wishes.
The matter was settled out of court and the terms remain confidential. Stevens was not a party in the legal dispute, but his affidavit was made part of the court record.
In response to Stevens’ statement, Thompson’s campaign manager, Carol Andrews, released a statement: “John Stevens knows he has no defense for preying upon a dying, elderly woman who for many years had simply wanted to leave her estate to sick and troubled children,” she said. “If he didn’t do anything wrong, then why did he sign an official affidavit stating that he did?”