Tag Archives: Card

Audit: Rockwood Man Bought $32,726 in Guns, Cameras and Clothes With City Credit Card

News release from comptroller’s office:
Investigators from the Comptroller’s office have discovered that a former Rockwood city coordinator used a city credit card and a city store charge card to purchase at least $32,725 in property and services for his personal benefit over a period of about three years.
These personal purchases included nearly $12,000 in guns, ammunition and firearm accessories, more than $7,000 in clothing, nearly $6,000 for camera equipment, more than $4,000 in online college tuition and nearly $4,000 for other miscellaneous personal items.
An investigative audit released today details how the former coordinator, Tom Pierce, used the city credit card to purchase at least 11 guns, including a tactical shot gun, a .308 rifle, a .44 caliber revolver, and two 9 mm pistols. These guns were registered to Pierce personally, not on behalf of the city. He also used the city credit card to purchase holsters, rifle scopes, tactical sights and ammunition.
Additionally, Pierce used the city credit card to also purchase clothing for his personal benefit at a total cost of $7,263. The clothing purchased includes polo shirts, cargo shorts, underwear, socks, women’s jeans, suit separates and running shoes. Additionally, the report details how Pierce used the city credit card to purchase premium cameras and photography equipment costing at least $5,697, including two Olympus cameras priced at more than $1,200 each. Although the city owned various inexpensive digital cameras used by employees, both the current mayor and the former mayor told the Comptroller’s investigators that they had no knowledge Pierce had purchased premium camera equipment at the city’s expense.
According to the Comptroller’s report, Pierce used the city credit card to charge business management courses totaling $4,190 from an online college and also used the city credit card to purchase other personal items with a total value of $3,675, which included protein powder, testosterone booster, digital music, books and movies.
Investigators determined that all of these charges were paid for with city funds. Both the current mayor and the former mayor told investigators that they had no knowledge Pierce had purchased the personal items at the city’s expense, either. They also indicated that they would not have given permission for the city to pay for such expenses.
“It is unacceptable for people in positions of public trust to abuse that trust at the expense of local taxpayers,” Comptroller Justin P. Wilson said. “I commend our investigators for helping to bring these issues to light. I also want to thank the district attorney and his staff for the work they have done on this case.”
This month, the Roane County Grand Jury returned a seven-count indictment against Pierce for theft, fraudulent use of a credit card and official misconduct.
To view the Comptroller’s report online, go to: http://www.comptroller.tn.gov/ia/
To view photos of some of the personal items purchased with city funds, go to: http://www.comptroller.tn.gov/repository/NR/20130227RockwoodReleasePictures.pdf

TN Gets ‘B’ on ‘Transparency Report Card’

Sunshine Review, a national nonprofit organization that declares itself dedicated to state and local government transparency, has released a 2013 Transparency Report Card grading every state and the largest counties, cities and school districts within each state on the availability of information on government websites.
Government websites were graded “A” to “F” measuring available content available against a checklist of information all governments should provide to citizens.
Tennessee gets a grade ‘B’ overall and ranked 24th in the nation. Tennessee’s graded counties got a ‘B-‘ and cities a ‘C+’.
The full report is HERE.
H/T Mike Donila, who posts some commentary on Knoxville and Knox County ratings.

Supreme Court OKs Memphis Library Cards for Voting (temporarily, anyhow)

The Tennessee Supreme Court on Thursday ordered election officials to accept Memphis’ library photo identification cards for voting purposes through the Nov. 6 general election if the voter is otherwise properly registered, reports Richard Locker.
And the Shelby County Election Commission has already ordered its polling staff to comply immediately, said chairman Robert Meyers.
“The instructions are to accept as valid the Memphis photo library cards, which means those voters that present with a Memphis library photo ID would then be allowed to vote on the machines,” Meyers said. “And any voter who has cast a provisional paper ballot with a Memphis photo library ID would not need to do anythin additional (for their vote to be counted).”
The election commission said that through Wednesday’s voting, only 19 people had been forced to cast provisional paper ballots because of issues relating to photo ID, including but not limited to those with Memphis library photo IDs. That’s out of more than 190,000 people attempting to vote so far, or 0.01 percent.
The state’s high court decided to accept the state’s request for permission to appeal last week’s state Court of Appeals ruling that upheld the constitutionality of Tennessee’s voter photo ID law. But the ruling also ruled that the city-issued library photo ID cards are acceptable for voting by properly registered voters. The state, which opposes the city-issued cards, appealed that provision of the ruling to the state Supreme Court.
Under the provisions of the appeal process the state used, the Court of Appeals’ order would normally be stayed, or delayed, until the appeal is decided. “However, the right to vote has profound constitutional significance,” the Supreme Court order issued Thursday morning said.
“In light of the impending general election on November 6, 2012, the Court has determined that the stay should be lifted for the limited purpose of ordering the defendants (Secretary of State) Tre Hargett and (State Election Coordinator) Mark Goins to immediately advise the Shelby County Election Commission to accept, for the November 6, 2012 general election and until otherwise ordered by this Court, the photo library cards issued by the City of Memphis Public Library as acceptable ‘evidence of identification’ as provided in” the state voter photo ID law.
After the Court of Appeals ruling last week, state election officials told the Shelby County Election Commission to allow registered voters who present the library photo cards to vote on paper provisional ballots but not regular touch-screen voting machines. State officials said that if the Court of Appeals ruling was upheld by the Supreme Court — or if the voters presented proper photo ID identified in the state statute within by two days after the Nov. 6 election — the provisional ballots would be counted. But if the Supreme Court overturned the ruling and determined that the library cards were not accepted, the provisional ballots would not be counted unless the voter presented acceptable photo ID by Nov. 8.

TN School Scores Show Improvement

By Lucas Johnson, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee’s high school graduation rate is up and assessment tests taken by elementary and middle school students improved last year, according to data released Thursday by the Education Department.
The figures show the graduation rate for the class of 2012 increased from 85.5 percent to 87.2 percent, and that elementary and middle school students grew in 23 out of 24 Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program measures.
Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman said he’s pleased with the improvements, but there’s still a lot of work to be done.
“We feel good about our progress last year, but we also feel there is a long way to go before we would feel close to satisfied by the way things are going,” Huffman said.
For instance, he said many school districts did not successfully narrow achievement gaps, and there were declines among particular student subgroups.
Huffman said one gap he plans to focus on closing this year is the one between students with disabilities and the students who are in special education, and their peers.

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Further Feuding Over Memphis Library Card for Voting

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — Election officials have been making Shelby County early voters who show only a Memphis library card as their photo identification cast a provisional ballot, and an attorney for the city on Monday demanded the practice stop.
Attorney George Barrett wrote in a cease and desist letter to Tennessee Attorney General Robert Cooper that state election officials are in “defiance” of a court order and the city of Memphis will go to court if the provisional ballot policy doesn’t stop.
The Tennessee Court of Appeals ruled last week that the voter ID law is constitutional but also said the Memphis library card qualifies as a government-issued photo ID. In a separate order it directed the state to tell election officials in Shelby County to accept the library card ID.
State officials appealed to the state Supreme Court on Friday, arguing that the Memphis library ID shouldn’t be allowed because it wasn’t issued by state government.
Robert Meyers, chairman of the Shelby County Election Commission, said Monday that he’s working to find out how many voters have been given provisional ballots after showing their Memphis library card during early voting ahead of the Nov. 6 election.
Shelby County voters who show only a library ID are being given provisional ballots on orders from the state coordinator of elections office, Meyers said.
“The state’s actions have already led to confusion among Memphis early voters, many of whom, including a city judge, have already attempted to vote with their photo library cards, only to be refused by poll workers,” Barrett’s letter said.
Secretary of State Tre Hargett contended last week that state attorneys had advised him that filing the appeal petition has stayed the appellate court order, which led to the provisional ballot procedures in Memphis.
Voters who cast provisional ballots have up to two business days after the election to return to their local election offices with proper identification, in order to have their votes counted.
As of Monday, the county had issued only a handful of provisional ballots, Meyers said. When told that their library IDs could only get them a provisional ballot, some voters showed their driver’s license and received a regular ballot, Meyers said.
“My sense is that there is a very low incidence” of voters getting provisional ballots after showing their library IDs, Meyers said.
Legal action against the photo ID law was initiated when the City of Memphis and two voters who lacked photo ID and cast provisional ballots during the August primary sued in both federal and state court to stop the law that took effect this year.
The appeals court cited Tennessee case law in finding that the city of Memphis is a branch of the state, so the library card, which was redesigned this year to include a photo, is enough to prove identity.
In their Supreme Court appeal, lawyers for Hargett and state elections coordinator Mark Goins said the high court needs to determine whether the voter ID law that took effect this year allows for local government ID.
Lawyers for the city argued in their response that the appeals court correctly decided that the library IDs meet the definition of “evidence of identification” in state law.
The Supreme Court set an expedited schedule for filings in the appeal but hasn’t yet said if it will hear the case.

Supreme Court Agrees to Expedite Appeal of Photo ID Decision

State officials on Friday appealed a Court of Appeals ruling that declares Memphis Public Library photo ID cards are acceptable for voting by properly registered voters and asked for a stay of the Thursday order.
From Richard Locker’s report:
The state Supreme Court later Friday agreed to expedite the state’s application to appeal and instructed attorneys for the the city of Memphis to respond to the state’s appeal by noon Monday. The high court’s order was silent, however, on the state’s request to stay the appeals court ruling.
The appeal to the Tennessee Supreme Court by the state attorney general’s office contends that the appeals court erred in declaring that the city of Memphis and the two Memphis voters who were co-plaintiffs in the case had standing to challenge the constitutionality of the state’s voter-photo ID act.
The appeal also contests the ruling that the city and its public library are “entities of this state” under provisions of the act that require voters to use photo IDs issued by the state, state agencies and “entities of this state.”
The Court of Appeals ruling “has essentially changed the rules on what type of identification is needed to vote in the midst of the election process,” the state says. “The Court of Appeals decision has cast uncertainty on that process on the eve of the November election.”
Thursday’s appeals court ruling upheld the constitutionality of Tennessee’s voter-photo ID law but also ordered acceptance of the Memphis library cards for voting by registered voters in Shelby County. The state contends that only state- and federal-issued ID cards — like driver’s licenses — are acceptable.
After Thursday’s ruling, state officials notified the Shelby County Election Commission to let registered voters who present the library ID cards to vote — but only on provisional ballots that may or may not be counted on election day. Provisional ballots are paper ballots that voters fill out and then place in a sealed envelope before handing to election officials. Whether they will be counted or not depends on the outcome of the case.
But Memphis City Atty. Herman Morris said Friday properly qualified voters with the library photo cards should be allowed to vote regularly, on touch-screen ballots, as other voters.

State Appeals Photo ID Ruling to Supreme Court

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — After winning a ruling that upheld Tennessee’s new law requiring voters to show photo identification at the polls, election officials said they will ask the state Supreme Court to step in because the decision also ordered them to accept an ID issued by the Memphis public library.
The Court of Appeals ruled Thursday that the law was constitutional but it also said the library card qualified as a government-issued photo ID. The court issued a separate order requiring election officials to immediately accept the Memphis library cards.
Secretary of State Tre Hargett praised much of the ruling even as he announced the decision to file an appeal on Friday.
“They’ve called it a burden on voting and once again the judiciary has said not it’s not,” Hargett said.
The city of Memphis and two voters who lacked photo ID and cast provisional ballots during the August primary sued in both federal and state court to stop the law that took effect this year.

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Judge Refuses to Block TN Photo ID Law

A Nashville judge declined Wednesday to block enforcement of the state’s voter-photo identification law or to allow the Memphis Public Library’s new photo library cards to be valid for voting purposes.
From the Commercial Appeal:
In declining to issue temporary or permanent injunctions sought by the plaintiffs, Davidson County Chancellor Carol McCoy ruled against efforts by the City of Memphis and two Memphis registered voters to either overturn the state law as an unconstitutional infringement on the right to vote, delay its enforcement until all qualified voters who want them can obtain valid photo IDs, or allow the library cards to be acceptable for voting.
Testimony in Wednesday’s three-hour hearing indicated there are still more than 90,000 registered voters in the state who have non-photo state-issued ID driver’s licenses that won’t be valid for voting, plus “tens of thousands more” — no one knows for sure how many — registered voters without a valid photo ID and who are not in the state’s photo ID database.
Attorneys for the City of Memphis said during the hearing that the losing side would appeal. But afterward, they said they’ll wait until McCoy issues her written order — finalizing the oral ruling she made after a three-hour hearing — before they decide whether to seek an expedited appeal. “We’ll have to discuss it with our clients. We would like to appeal,” said Nashville attorney George Barrett, representing the city.
“I’m very disappointed. Anytime the state infringes on the right to vote, they’re taking something away from us, and they’re taking something away from us in this instance. Let’s not fool around; everybody knows what’s going on. You have to have your head in the sand if you don’t. It’s been going on all over the country since 2010. To play like it’s something innocent to protect the ballot is nonsense.”
During his court arguments, Barrett’s co-counsel, Douglas Johnston, told the judge that photo ID requirements for voting have been enacted across the country in the last two years “because in 2008, African-Americans and young people and poor people came out in droves to vote. These are the people who these laws most impact.”
McCoy ruled that none of the three plaintiffs had standing to challenge the state statute in court because the city has no right to vote and therefore cannot “assert it has been harmed” by the act. She said evidence presented indicated that co-plaintiff Daphne Turner-Golden can vote; “all she has to do is obtain a photo ID at no charge, while plaintiff Sullistine Bell can either vote absentee without a photo ID or obtain one.

Judge Says Parts of Voter ID Law ‘Make No Sense’… But It Stands

The public library’s new photo cards won’t qualify as voter IDs in Thursday’s elections, and the long-term outlook for the voter-photo initiative of Mayor A C Wharton appears in serious jeopardy after a two-hour hearing in a Nashville federal court, reports Richard Locker.
U.S. Dist. Judge Aleta Trauger denied the City of Memphis’ request for an injunction ordering election officials to accept the photo cards as identification under Tennessee’s law requiring most voters to present photo IDs at polling precincts before they can cast ballots.
Although the judge said “there are parts of this act (the state law) that make no sense to the court and it does appear there will be unfair impacts, particular on the elderly,” she said the plaintiffs in the case — the City of Memphis and a Memphis voter — “are not likely to succeed on the merits” in their efforts to allow the library-issued cards to qualify.
One of the provisions of the voter-photo statute passed by the new Republican majority in the Tennessee legislature last year that Trauger and even attorneys for the state agreed “makes no sense” allows long-expired hunting licenses or other photo ID issued by any other state to qualify for Tennessee voting — but not photo IDs issued by Tennessee cities or counties.
“I certainly do hope the legislature revisits this act because to the court, it is nonsensical that someone who holds an expired hunting license from another state and someone who has a photo ID from the library” are treated differently when it comes to voting, Trauger said.


Note: Statements on the judge’s decision below.

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Judge Refuses to Authorize Memphis Library Card for Voting

A federal court judge Wednesday denied the City of Memphis’ request for an immediate order to force Shelby County election officials to accept the new public library photo identification cards for voting purposes.
Further from Richard Locker:
However, U.S. Dist. Judge Kevin H. Sharp did schedule a full hearing on the issue for Aug. 2 and also encouraged state officials to notify election officials that they should not discourage people with the new library photo cards from casting provisional ballots in the Aug. 2 elections and its early voting period, which ends Saturday.
Lawyers for the city told the judge that they took two people with the library cards to vote at three different early voting precincts and they were discouraged from casting provisional ballots at all three but were finally allowed to vote after about 20 minutes of discussion at each location.
Deputy state Atty. Gen. Steve Hart acknowledged that out of 35,963 early votes cast in Shelby County, only two have been by provisional ballot.
But people who cast provisional ballots must go to the election commission within two business days after the election — in this case, by Aug. 6 — to present valid photo IDs as required by state law this year for the first time, or else the votes will not be counted.
The City of Memphis and a Memphis resident, Daphne Turner-Golden, filed a lawsuit in federal court here Tuesday arguing that the new Memphis-Shelby County Public library photo ID cards should be valid for voting purposes because they are issued by a “state entity,” as required in Tennessee’s new voter photo ID law, which went into effect this year.
“The library is a state entity. The municipality is a state entity,” Deputy City Atty. Regina Morrison Newman told reporters after the 50-minute hearing. The plaintiffs asked for a temporary restraining order to force the election commission to accept the library cards as a valid photo ID for voting purposes.
Judge Sharp denied that request, saying the plaintiffs did not prove there would be immediate and irreparable harm if the order was not issued. He said that as long as people are allowed to cast provisional ballots until a full hearing can be held Aug. 2 — election day — whatever harm there is won’t be irreparable.
But the judge also added that he is “concerned” that the Tennessee legislature “decided to fix a problem that doesn’t appear to exist and made it more difficult for people to vote.”


Note: A statement from Secretary of State Tre Hargett is below.

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