Tag Archives: bribe

Former Lawmaker Recalls Bribe Offer on Landfill Legislation

Excerpt from Stephen Hale’s thorough report on a lawsuit, legislation and the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation as they relate to a landfill near Camden.
If the Jackson Law didn’t deliver the protection Camden residents hoped, maybe other legislation will. State Rep. Tim Wirgau, whose district includes Camden, is actively trying to slow the landfill permitting process. He’s filed a bill (HB952) that would amend the Jackson Law by adding a requirement for public notice and a public hearing prior to an increase in a landfill’s classification, or an expansion of the type of waste the landfill is authorized to accept.
Last year, Wirgau sponsored a bill that would have effectively shut down the EWS site. The bill made only one proper appearance in a subcommittee — which was not attended by EWS representatives — and was eventually deferred without ever getting a vote.
His new bill is yet to appear for the first time at the legislature. Wirgau says he’s optimistic, but that his guard is up after support he thought he had in his camp last year vanished. And he’s already heard from the opposition.
“We have heard from some of the larger landfill people with concerns, like, ‘Oh, we’ve already got enough problems so I don’t think we’re going to be on your side on this one,’ ” Wirgau tells the Scene. “My take is on it, look — if you’re a landfill operator and you are doing a good job, and you are working within your communities and all the boundaries, I don’t think any of the locals are going to have a problem with the operation that you’re running right now. But if you’re a bad actor, and not doing things properly, then you’re going to have a tough time getting an expansion or a new permit, especially from the locals.”
One former legislator would no doubt sympathize with Wirgau’s uphill battle. In 1989, Doug Jackson learned about the dirty politics of trash. Then a Tennessee state representative, he proposed the legislation nicknamed for him in response to a large landfill that had been proposed in his Dickson County district.
Suddenly, Jackson remembers, he was a popular man on Capitol Hill — or at least his office was crowded.
“It had lobbyists lined up 20 deep, and all the landfill companies obviously mobilized in opposition,” says Jackson, who left office after his defeat in 2010 and now serves as executive director of The Renaissance Center in Dickson. “And then the Tennessee Municipal League opposed it. The County Governments Association opposed it. It just seemed to have no friends.”
It was the toughest piece of legislation he ever sponsored, he says. He adds that it was notable for another reason: the first and only time in office he was ever offered a bribe.
The day after the bill passed out of the House environment committee, Jackson recalls, a man from South Carolina showed up at his law office without an appointment. He said he was involved with several landfills, Jackson says, including what was then the largest hazardous waste landfill in the country along with the landfill proposed for Jackson’s district. And he had a proposition.
“He said, ‘I’ve made all the money that I could ever hope to spend in my life, this landfill up here is going to be another good one, and I know you’re under pressure. And we’re used to addressing that, the pressures of local officials,’ ” Jackson remembers. “He said, ‘I think we can make this worth your while.’ ”
At that point, Jackson stepped outside and asked his secretary to come into the office and have a seat.
“Now do you want to go ahead and continue this conversation, or do you want to change the subject?” Jackson recalls telling the man.
The man just laughed, Jackson says, and got up to leave saying that he could see they weren’t going to get anywhere. Several years later, after the bill had passed into law, the two crossed paths again. Jackson says the man flagged him down, reminded Jackson who he was, and told him he’d done a “very stupid thing.”
“You would’ve made enough money out of that, you would’ve never had to work another day in your life,” Jackson recalls him saying.

Haslam Backs MOOCHERS as Followup to BRIBE

Scott McNutt turned his satire guns on Gov. Bill Haslam Sunday, this time with vouchers as a topic a day before his “state-of-the-state” speech. The piece starts like this:
Gov. Bill Haslam confirmed that, in his annual State of the State address tomorrow, he will introduce his own proposal to create a program in Tennessee to transfer more public money to private hands, beginning with a school voucher system. He declined to elaborate about which private concerns he would make eligible for taxpayer dollars.
The Republican governor told reporters that the tentative title for his plan is the Money Officially Obligated to the Citizenry Hijacked as Earmarks for the Right Schemes (MOOCHERS) program.
“Our MOOCHERS bill is similar to what we did last year with the Business Recruitment Incentivization with Banknote Enticements (BRIBE) system, which allows my administration to fast-track bundles of cash to private businesses that might relocate to Tennessee,” he said.
Haslam last year appointed a task force to study school voucher proposals and other options for allowing public money to transfer to private enterprises. He had previously been undecided about whether he would take the lead on a MOOCHERS proposal or if he would let lawmakers control the professional mendicant measure.
…The governor said his plan will be paid for through the state’s tax dollars. He also ruled out funding vouchers and other MOOCHERS ventures by replicating tax-credit programs created in states like Florida, which offset corporate donations used for similar MOOCHERS programs.
“Sure, we could set up a program where big businesses get tax rebates for funding business welfare projects we favor, but that means they have to wait longer for reimbursements, and we’re looking for the simplest way of transferring taxpayer money directly to private organizations,” Haslam explained.

Note: the wrong link was used on this post initially; it has been corrected.

Former State Employee Pleads Guilty to Taking Bribes for Driver Licenses

A Tennessee state employee charged with giving licenses to unqualified applicants pleaded guilty today to federal bribery counts in federal district court in Nashville, reports The Tennessean.
The defendant, Larry Murphy, 54, who worked for the Department of Safety, had been accused of issuing state drivers licenses in exchange for more than $5,000 in bribes over five months ending in April.
U.S. District Judge Kevin Sharp told Murphy, of Antioch, that he faces a maximum prison sentence of 10 years and a $250,000 fine.
In April, federal prosecutors filed a complaint against Murphy after an investigation found that he was connected to a person suspected of selling identification documents to undocumented immigrants.
According to the complaint, when an undercover FBI agent sought from Murphy a commercial driving license without a Social Security number, Murphy made one up.
Murphy also fabricated the agent’s medical certification by altering information from another applicant, according to the complaint.
The undercover agent paid Murphy $3,500 through a third party.

Driver’s License Examiner Charged With Taking Bribes

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A Tennessee driver’s license examiner has been charged with taking thousands of dollars in bribes to issue licenses to people who failed or did not take the written tests.
Federal prosecutors in Nashville said 54-year-old Larry Murphy of Nashville was a supervisory driver’s license examiner employed by the state Department of Safety and worked at the licensing facility on Hart Lane.
The complaint filed Wednesday in federal court says that between January and April, Murphy improperly provided several licenses to four undercover agents in exchange for payment. In one instance, the complaint said that Murphy made up a Social Security number when the undercover agent told him he did not have one.
An attorney for Murphy declined to comment on the charge when reached Thursday.

Two Charged With Bribing Voters in Tellico Plains

News release from Tennessee Bureau of Investigation:
Chattanooga, Tenn. – The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation yesterday arrested two individuals who have been under investigation by TBI at the request of the 10th Judicial District Attorney General since September 2011 for bribing voters during a Tellico Plains election.
Chuck Hunt, 54, of Tellico Plains, Tenn. was indicted by the Monroe County Grand Jury on eight counts of bribery of a voter and eight counts of conspiracy to bribe a voter. Norman Nichols, 47, of Madisonville, Tenn. was indicted by the Monroe County Grand Jury on six counts of bribery of a voter and six counts of conspiracy to bribe a voter. Both Nichols and Hunt were buying votes during the 2011 Tellico Plains Mayoral race.
Both were booked into the Monroe County Jail on $1,000 bond each.

Mayor Accused of Gambling, Bribes in Affidavit

Millington Mayor Richard Hodges used the power of his office for bribes, routinely gambled at a car repair shop and owed more than $10,000 in interest-free IOU’s to a Millington businessman, according to a state investigator’s affidavit obtained by The Commercial Appeal.
“Based on the interviews and recorded conversations …, I believe that evidence of official misconduct, bribery, and gambling will be found at Millington City Hall (Mayor’s Office) and the Transmission Doctors in Millington,” TBI Special Agent David Harmon states in the search-warrant affidavit released Friday.
The document details a series of interviews with a confidential informant who owns a transmission shop in Millington.
According to the documents, Hodges and others gambled in the shop, and the informant loaned Hodges more than $10,000.
Hodges used both a stick and carrot, threatening the businessman with code enforcement inspections and providing him with a police badge, the affidavit states.

Veteran TDOT Employee Pleads Guilty to Taking Bribes

A 40-year Tennessee Department of Transportation employee pleaded guilty on Tuesday to soliciting and accepting $30,000 in bribes, reports The Tennessean.
He faces a prison sentence, but the firm he says gave him the money remains a contractor in good standing with the state. James Douglas Hagar, 60, of Mt. Juliet, recommended an increase in work for the company, Lu Inc., which was installing crash cushions in conjunction with a 2005 widening project on Interstate 65 in Nashville.
The recommendation resulted in an increase in the subcontractor’s work from $80,000 to $352,000, according to court documents. The total cost of the taxpayer-funded project was $58 million.