Newly released records from the Department of Children’s Services contain substantial redactions of information that prevent the public from learning in some cases how children died, according to the Tennessean. One DCS file describes a 17-month-old girl found not breathing and blue after her afternoon nap. Her family had a “vast history” of DCS interventions that stretched back eight years. But lengthy redactions conceal doctors’ conclusions about whether the toddler had suffered abuse or neglect before her death.
Those omissions from her file make it impossible to learn why an otherwise healthy child simply died. DCS notes say the agency closed the case without finding child abuse or neglect and before the agency had viewed the autopsy.
The girl’s records are among 44 newly released DCS case files of children who had been the subject of a child abuse or neglect report at some point before they died or suffered critical injuries in the latter half of 2011 and early 2012. The files were released under court order after The Tennessean led a coalition of media groups in filing a lawsuit to gain access to the records.
Many of the records contain rows of blacked-out sentences that conceal the cause and circumstance of a child’s death, the nature of injuries or illnesses, and the concerns of medical professionals. Many of the redactions appear random.
Statement from Dick Williams, Common Cause of Tennessee:
House Bill 643 by Casada / SB 787 by Watson & Ramsey contain several revisions to the current campaign finance laws in Tennessee.
This bill has received little discussion in the public and in committee, but is scheduled for floor votes in this, presumably, last week of the session. Many of the provisions, when explained in the context of current state & federal campaign law are relatively non controversial.
The exception, so far, is the increase in the limits on contributions from PACs controlled by political parties or caucuses. While Common Cause/TN has some concern about the amounts of the proposed increases in those limits, we are more concerned about the effect of a provision that has received little attention to date. Section 5 of the bill would delete the word “corporation” from the definition of a PAC.
While section 3 of the bill clarifies that corporate or insurance company contributions are held to the same limits as are PACs, the deletion from the definition of a PAC means that corporations, like individuals, would not have to report their contributions to the Registry of Election Finance.
PACs, unlike individuals, are required to report their political contributions to the Registry of Election Finance. Since the definition of a PAC includes a committee, club, association or other group of persons who receive or make political contributions, the effect of Section 5 of this bill would mean that a small group or club that made contributions would continue to report to the Registry, but corporations would not. Certainly, the public would see this as unfair and inappropriate.
One of the important tools for the Registry to assure the accuracy of the campaign disclosure information is the cross-checking of PAC reports with those of candidates. Frequently, discrepancies are found and corrected. In most cases, the figures are reconciled as a bookkeeping error on the part of either the PAC or the candidate or both.
Although we are concerned about possible amendments to this broad captioned bill contrary to the public interest, we believe that Section 5 should be deleted, if the bill is adopted.
Tennessee’s Registry of Election Finance wants Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett to appear before it next month and explain a series of irregularities in the campaign disclosure forms he filed connected with his successful 2010 election run, reports Mike Donilla. The registry, in a 4-1 vote this morning, said it would issue the mayor a “show cause” letter that would require him to explain how the errors occurred and to fix them if possible.
The board – if it eventually chooses to further investigate the issue – also will have to decide later whether to dismiss any issues or assess a civil penalty, which can be as much as $10,000 per offense.
Members told Burchett’s Nashville-based lawyer who was at this morning’s meeting that they’d like the mayor to attend the panel’s next meeting, which was set for Oct. 23.
At issue is a formal sworn complaint filed by local freelance writer Pam Strickland asking state and local officials to look into campaign discrepancies in the mayor’s disclosure forms. Strickland, who writes a weekly column for the News Sentinel but is not an employee of the newspaper, filed the complaint Aug. 8 with the Knox County District Attorney General’s Office and the Bureau of Ethics and Campaign Finance.
Stickland’s complaint follows a series of News Sentinel articles that raised questions about Burchett disclosure forms filed in his 2010 mayoral run. In the complaint, which includes copies of the newspaper stories, Strickland reiterates much of the paper’s findings.
In the waning hours of the legislative session, the House and Senate passed and sent to the governor a bill (SB1666) that provides for issuance of a free photo ID on request to persons who sign an affidavit saying they need it to vote – which some will under the bill passed earlier mandating a photo ID for voting.
The bill was sponsored by House Republican Caucus Chairman Debra Maggart and Senate Republican Caucus Chairman Bill Ketron, who also sponsored the voter ID bill. Democrats had argued that, without such a bill, the voter photo law was unconstitutional, amounting basically to a poll tax for those who now lack a driver’s license or other government-issued photo ID acceptable under the bill.
(Previous post on the arguments HERE.)
The fiscal note on the bill estimates costs at about $450,000 and has an explanation of how many voters are impacted.
I was reminded of this – and that I haven’t seen it reported anywhere — when reading through Dick Williams’ end-of-session memo on open government and election legislation which the gentleman who runs the Common Caucus show in Tennessee was kind enough to pass along.
It’s reproduced below.