NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Tennessee Department of Human Services has terminated its former budget coordinator after an audit found he failed to file reports to the federal government.
According to The Tennessean (http://tnne.ws/15R6QuU), the audit stated Adeniyi Bakare had problems filing documents online for millions of dollars’ worth of federally funded programs. Auditors said Bakare didn’t contact federal agencies to see why the errors occurred.
The newspaper said Bakare, whose employment ended July 5, couldn’t be contacted for comment. Officials said the failure to file reports was a major factor in his dismissal.
“We take the audit very seriously because it speaks to how we operate,” said Basil Dosunmu, DHS deputy commissioner of finance and administration. “We know we have a role in fiscal stewardship.”
Grants have not been revoked, but auditors noted that failing to account for them could result in forfeiting funds.
The Hill talks with Tennessean Ward Baker about his new job as political director of the Republican National committee and his assignment: win enough seats to give the GOP control of the U.S. Senate after the 2014 elections.
An excerpt: In his new role, Baker will allocate the NRSC’s budget, shifting resources as the map develops. He’ll also do much of the hiring for the committee’s independent expenditure arm and help shape the messaging and strategy needed to achieve the GOP’s 2014 goal of regaining the Senate majority.
Baker readily admits that, coming out of 2012, there are things the party needs to do differently, particularly in terms of expanding the GOP’s appeal.
“We’ve got to do a better job of reaching new voters. I agree with a lot of what [Louisiana Gov.] Bobby Jindal said. … We should not run away from our party,” he said.
Jindal charged during his keynote address at the RNC’s winter meeting that while the Republican Party shouldn’t change its values, it “might need to change just about everything else we are doing.”
Baker indicated that one of the biggest changes coming to the NRSC will be in recruitment.
“There are a lot of senators that have offered to help us recruit” besides the NRSC’s two vice chairmen, Sens. Rob Portman (Ohio) and Ted Cruz (Texas), Baker said.
Baker is bringing a winning track record — and wealth of experience in hard-fought races — to the NRSC. But his career began in the military.
After graduating high school in Tennessee, Baker eschewed college in favor of joining the Marines. He was stationed at the 8th and I location on Capitol Hill as a member of the ceremonial drill team.
He credits his military training with giving him the self-discipline and team ethic that has guided him in his career in politics.
News release from state comptroller’s office:
Auditors from the Comptroller’s office found that the Tennessee Film, Entertainment and Music Commission; the Department of Economic and Community Development; and the Department of Revenue have failed to ensure that public incentives for filmmaking businesses were properly administered. Auditors could find little to no evidence the incentives have led to new film producing facilities or permanent film jobs in Tennessee.
In 2006, the General Assembly passed laws giving the film commission authority to provide certain financial incentives to attract movie production companies to the state. However, auditors questioned whether the incentives provided have been properly determined and whether certain incentives intended for filmmaking facilities located in Tennessee have been improperly awarded to out-of-state businesses.
The Comptroller’s report, which was released today, can be found online at: http://www.comptroller.tn.gov/sa/AuditReportCategories.asp
The auditors found that incentive payments were based on expenditures that did not always meet the program’s guidelines or have adequate supporting documentation.
The audit also revealed a former executive director had a potential conflict of interest that was not properly disclosed. The former director’s spouse worked for a legal firm that was involved with at least three film projects which received incentives.
Auditors will give a presentation on their findings today at a meeting of the General Assembly’s joint subcommittee on commerce, labor, transportation and agriculture. The meeting is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. in Hearing Room 12 at Legislative Plaza in downtown Nashville.
The Tennessean reports that two executive-level Department of Children’s Services staffers — whose duties at the agency included reviewing the deaths of children — were fired Tuesday. Dismissed were:
• Debbie Miller, 61, executive director of family and child well-being, who oversaw medical and behavioral health and education for children in custody and independent living for teens that age out of DCS custody; and
• Alan Hall, 47, executive director of performance and quality improvement, who oversaw department policies, licensing and accountability, and who led the department’s internal audit.
Department spokeswoman Molly Sudderth said Miller’s position was eliminated as part of a restructuring. Hall will be replaced. The Tennessean asked why Hall was dismissed, and Sudderth did not give an answer.
In a Tennessean review of personnel files in October, neither Hall nor Miller had any reprimands. Information about their service since then was not immediately available, Sudderth said.
Reached by phone, Hall said Wednesday he was “certainly shocked” at his firing.
“I’m evaluating my options,” he said.
Miller did not return calls.
The firings are the latest for a department that has seen a high level of executive turnover since Commissioner Kate O’Day took charge in January 2011. The Tennessean reported in November that more than 70 executive-level employees had been terminated during her time — more employees, and a higher rate of dismissals, than all but a handful of other state government departments.
News release from Tennessee Republican Party:
NASHVILLE, TN – The top spot on the staff of the Tennessee Republican Party is going to a fresh face, while a new position will be filled from a much-deserved promotion from within the organization.
Chairman of the Tennessee Republican Party, Chris Devaney, today announced the hiring of Brent Leatherwood to be the Party’s new Executive Director. At the same time, he announced that the Party’s current Political Director, Michael Sullivan, will be promoted to Deputy Executive Director.
“We have a great team at the TNGOP, and we are excited about Brent Leatherwood helping us lead our effort for the next two years. Brent has extensive campaign experience, and his knowledge of the state legislature will also be a valuable asset as we prepare for the 2014 elections and beyond,” said Devaney.
Leatherwood remarked, “I am incredibly excited about this opportunity to help guide the Tennessee Republican Party. Chairman Devaney has led the Party to new heights and I believe we’re going to continue excelling as the organization that represents the values of Tennesseans. We’ll do that by being a robust operation that serves as an unparalleled information resource, provides a strong Get Out the Vote effort, and continues to help elect Republicans across the state.”
Leatherwood will join the TNGOP in January after serving the Tennessee House Republican Caucus as the Communications Director. A native of Chattanooga, he has worked in Congress as a Senior Policy Advisor for U.S. Representative from Florida, has led two congressional campaigns in Tennessee, and has worked on multiple U.S. Senate and U.S. House races.
“I am grateful for the opportunity to continue working for Chairman Devaney and the TNGOP at a higher level. Republicans have made significant gains in Tennessee in the past few years, but there is still more we can do to ensure a strong Party in Tennessee for years to come. ” added Michael Sullivan.
Sullivan has been with the TNGOP since July of 2011. Prior to his current role, he served the Indiana House Republican Caucus as a Press Secretary. An Indianapolis native, Sullivan has worked on multiple campaigns including Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels’ 2008 reelection campaign, as well as running a congressional campaign in Indiana and a Senatorial campaign in Illinois.
News release from Tennessee Education Association:
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Tennessee Education Association Executive Director Alphonso C. (Al) Mance is retiring after 29 years with the association. Mance served as an assistant executive director prior to being promoted to executive director in 1999.
“Al is known not only in Tennessee, but nationwide, for his calm professionalism, and his knowledge of and dedication to public education,” said Gera Summerford, TEA president and Sevier County math teacher. “Al has devoted his life to improving public education and fighting for the rights of educators. He will be greatly missed by our members and our staff.”
During his time with TEA, Mance served on Governor Bredesen’s Commission on Civic Education and currently serves on the Tennessee First to the Top Advisory Council and the Tennessee Labor-Management Foundation Board of Directors.
Mance started his organizational career with the New York Educators Association. During his career Mance has written more than two hundred articles on educational and organizational issues and topics. Prior to his work for the association, Mance began his teaching career in Florida and then later taught in New York. He has developed and presented training packages on stress management, time management, leadership, parent-teacher conferences, teaching in a multi-cultural environment, interpersonal relations and humanism in education, among others.
Assistant Executive Director Mitchell Johnson will serve as interim executive director until Mance’s replacement is hired in early 2013.
— More on the matter: According to WPLN, TEA President Gera Summerford says the recent departure of TEA’s chief lobbyist, Jerry Winters, and now Mance is a coincidence and no indication of problems or conflict. “I have watched both of these professional, excellent gentlemen work in their roles for TEA for many, many years, I’ve worked very closely with them now for two and a half years, and neither of them is the kind of person who would give up a good fight.”
In the last couple years thousands of teachers let their memberships with TEA lapse, after lawmakers made it harder for the union to collect dues. Where membership was once over 50 thousand, Summerford now expects it to stabilize in the low forties.
The Tennessee Department of Children’s Services has replaced the director of the call center where case workers have struggled to answer phone calls that report child abuse and neglect, reports The Tennessean. DCS spokesman Brandon Gee said Thursday that Central Intake call center Director Jeanene Waldrum will move to the DCS main office. In her place, the interim call center director will be Dimple Dudley, who began working with the state as a social worker in 1976.
“We’ve been considering making a change for some time,” Gee said. “This was a mutual thing. [Waldrum] had inquired about transferring.”
On Monday, The Tennessean reported an increase in unanswered calls and high staff turnover at the call center, and the department’s recent efforts to find ways to answer the phones more quickly.
Gee said the director change was already being considered at that time.
News release from governor’s office:
NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today announced the appointment of David Jones as a director on the newly reconfigured Tennessee Regulatory Authority (TRA).
Haslam, Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey (R-Blountville) and House Speaker Beth Harwell (R-Nashville) jointly appointed Jones, and he joins fellow TRA directors James Allison, Kenneth Hill, Herbert Hilliard and Sara Kyle.
“It is our job to make state government as accountable and responsive to Tennesseans as possible,” Haslam said. “David Jones brings 30 years of experience in the energy industry to TRA. I am grateful for his willingness to serve our citizens and appreciate Lt. Gov. Ramsey and Speaker Harwell for their efforts throughout this selection process.”
Passed during this year’s legislative session and signed into law by Haslam, HB 2385/SB 2247 changed the membership of the TRA from four full-time directors to five part-time directors and established the executive director position.
The TRA sets utility rates and service standards of privately-owned telephone, natural gas, electric and water utilities.
Jones has direct experience with large corporations, small businesses and in consulting. He spent 16 years in human resources with a Fortune 250 energy company, and 14 years in field operations, ultimately becoming vice president of Eastern Operations for El Paso Corp. He is the founder and president of davidjonesgroup, a management consulting and executive coaching services company, and he is president of Complete Holdings Group, which provides workers compensation revenue solutions to healthcare providers and payers.
He served as a member of the Southern Gas Association’s Corporation Telelink Network Board of Directors; chairman of the Interstate Natural Gas Association of American Security Committee; vice chairperson of the Oil and Natural Gas Security Coordinating Council; and member of the National Infrastructure Advisory Committee Pandemic Work Group.
Jones has a bachelor’s degree in Management from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville and a master’s in Business Administration from the University of Houston. He and his wife live in Franklin, and they have two grown children and four grandchildren.
After the General Assembly approved Gov. Bill Haslam’s proposed overhaul of the Tennessee Regulatory Authority last spring, Knoxville businessman Earl R. Taylor thought he might be a good fit as one of the agency’s five new part-time directors.
But Haslam, a former Knoxville mayor who knew Taylor, and the governor’s top staffers instead saw Taylor in a different role at the TRA, which sets rates and service standards for privately owned utilities.
Further from Andy Sher: The governor decided Taylor, who had worked as an attorney and television affiliate executive before becoming a Panera Bread restaurant franchisee with multistate operations, was the best choice for the reconfigured authority’s powerful new executive director position.
So on July 31, Haslam; Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, who is Senate speaker; and House Speaker Beth Harwell named Taylor as executive director. He is in effect the TRA’s chief operating officer.
…n a recent interview, Taylor said he’s enjoying his new role and has discovered “a very good group of people working here, very capable, dedicated smart folks. We’re blessed to have a lot of great people here at the TRA.”
The “learning curve’s pretty steep, but we’re getting there,” he said.
…The appointment took agency officials, utility attorneys and news organizations by surprise. Taylor’s name wasn’t on the list of 18 applicants released earlier by the administration to the Times Free Press.
“I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it,” Haslam said. “When I was elected … we had a lot of people apply for positions, some of whom I chose. A lot of people who are agency heads and commissioners didn’t apply. I went out and found them and got them to do it.”
That doesn’t mean “there’s anything wrong with the process,” the governor said. “I think it kind of works to open it up: here’s the position, see who applies. But our job is always to find the very best person that we can.”
Thirty days after a new law took effect transforming the Tennessee Regulatory Authority, the utility regulating agency got an executive director and a quorum for its new part-time board on Tuesday.
Earl R. Taylor, a Panera Bread franchisee who lives in Knoxville and has previously worked as a consultant to media companies, was named as the full-time executive director of the agency jointly by Haslam, House Speaker Beth Harwell and Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey.
Previously, the TRA had four full-time directors and no executive director. Under the legislation passed this year at Haslam’s urging, it will have five part-time directors and a full-time executive director.
Two of the part-time director positions were also filled Tuesday by appointment of James Allison and Herbert Hillard.
Allison is president and CEO of the Duck River Electric Membership Corp., headquartered in Shelbyville. He grew up in Maryville, according to Haslam spokesman and is described in a news release as “also regarded as one of the top instant replay officials in college football after having been an on-field official in the Southeastern Conference for more than 12 years.”
Hillard is executive vice president and chief government relatons officer of First Horizon National Corp. in Memphis.
Two of the former full-time TRA directors – Kenneth Hill and Sara Kyle – remain as part-time directors after the agency overhaul. One part-time director position still remains to be filled.
The new law took effect July 1 and when it did, the agency was left with only two of the part-time board members in place – not enough for a quorum – and with no executive director. The appointments Tuesday resolve that situation.
Taylor was not among the 18 persons who initially applied for the TRA executive director position.
“We wanted to cast as wide a net as possible, so we had those who applied and we also had conversations with others who might be interested,” said Haslam spokesman David Smith in an email. “We’re excited Mr. Taylor is willing to serve in this capacity.”
Taylor’s resume, provided by the governor’s office, says that as a Panera franchisee since 2000, he has developed stores in Florida and has stores under development in Texas and Louisiana. Before that, he was employed by Harmony Media as a consultant. In the 1990s, the resume says Taylor “developed and signed-on” WBXX-TV, Channel 20, in Knoxville and served as general partner and in other capacities at WKXT-TV in Knoxville.
Before that, he practiced law in Johnson City. He holds a bachelor’s degree from UT Knoxville and a law degree from the University of Memphis.
— Note: The governor’s news release is below.