David Leaverton, who came to Tennessee in 1996 to become a punter for the University of Tennessee football team, has resigned as senior field director for U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., and is returning to his home state of Texas.
From Georgiana Vines: After representing the senator in a 15-county area for 5½ years, he said he and wife Erin are moving to Dallas to be near their families. They have a 1-year-old daughter, Grace, and another child is on the way.
“It made a lot of sense for us personally to be close to family. It’s also someone you trust to leave your child with. It’s not the same as with a baby sitter,” Leaverton said.
He said he will join Pioneer Natural Resources, an exploration and production company in Irving, Texas, in its public affairs staff.
Gov. Bill Haslam’s newly reorganized Tennessee Regulatory Authority is off but not running since the governor and legislative leaders failed to appoint an executive and a quorum of directors by July 1, reports Andy Sher Meanwhile, a six-month clock is already ticking on Tennessee American Water’s June 1 request to hike Chattanooga’s water rates by nearly 25 percent.
The TRA must decide on the request no later than November or the $10.5 million increase automatically will take effect.
Gas utilities Atmos Energy Corp. and Navitas, which operate in other parts of the state, filed rate-increase requests with the TRA on June 22 and July 2, respectively.
But the TRA last had a quorum of directors June 8. At their final meeting, Chairman Kenneth Hill and directors Sara Kyle and Mary Freeman named Hill as hearing officer in the Tennessee American case to keep proceedings moving.
“The clock started when they filed, and that’s why I put myself in the position to try to expedite” matters, Hill said.
But the Atmos and Navitas filings came after Freeman quit to take a job in Memphis. The result? Without a quorum, the board can’t even name a hearing officer right now.
Hill said Tuesday that getting a timely decision in the Tennessee American “depends on how much data comes in and how fast and how soon we can get hearings and reconcile testimony and come up with a decision.”
“We’re confident, at least at this point, because we were able to get ahead of the curve and get started on these procedurals,” Hill said.
But, he added, the Atmos and Navitas rate requests “are another question because we’re behind on those two.”
Hill and Kyle stayed on as part-time directors under the reorganization. Director Eddie Roberson, a Democrat, and Freeman left their positions. That means there are three unfilled board seats plus the executive director position.
Haslam spokesman David Smith downplayed the situation, Tuesday, saying, “We continue to move through the process and are committed to finding the best fits for the positions.”
Asked when the governor anticipates filling the posts, Smith said, “It’s as soon as we find the best fits for the positions.”
The appointment will be made jointly by Haslam, Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey and House Speaker Beth Harwell, all Republicans. Neither Ramsey nor Harwell responded to requests for comment.
Eighteen people have applied for the job of running day-to-day operations at the Tennessee Regulatory Authority, including the first chairman of the agency and three current or former TRA employees.
The utility-regulating TRA was substantially changed earlier this year with passage of legislation pushed by Gov. Bill Haslam. The transformation replaces the present four full-time directors with a five-member, part-time board and creates a new position for a full-time executive director
During legislative debate, critics of the Haslam bill questioned whether the executive director would effectively run the agency with the part-time board serving as a rubber stamp for his or her decisions. Proponents disputed such contentions.
The deadline for submitting applications was June 6, but the Haslam administration – in response to a request made a day later — did not provide a full list of applicants until Friday. Apparently, the delay was partly caused by most of the applicants filing with the Department of Human Resources, as requested in ads soliciting applications, while four sent their applications directly to the governor.
Tea party and anti-Muslim activists are taking aim at a recent hire by the administration of Gov. Bill Haslam, targeting one of its top economic development officers based on her religion and past work experience, reports Chas Sisk. The Center for Security Policy, a Washington, D.C., organization that has frequently attacked Muslims for perceived ties to Islamist groups, and the 8th District Tea Party Coalition, an umbrella organization of West Tennessee tea party groups, have urged their members to pressure Haslam and Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bill Hagerty to dump Samar Ali, an attorney appointed last month as the department’s new international director.
The groups depict Ali as an Islamic fundamentalist with close ties to President Barack Obama.
The claims are spurious and ECD has no intention of firing Ali, said Clint Brewer, a department spokesman.
“She’s eminently qualified to do the job,” Brewer said. “We are lucky to be able to have her.”
The pressure campaign, which began last Thursday with a posting on a Center for Security Policy blog, does not appear to have been effective.
Newly appointed Knox County Finance Director Burton Webb was fired Friday after officials discovered the former developer had been indicted on a theft charge in Kentucky with a warrant issued for his arrest.
From the News Sentinel report: “I spoke with Burton and we discussed the issue and the fact that it was bigger than either one of us realized at the time he was hired, and he will no longer be employed by Knox County,” Mayor Tim Burchett said. “He remains a friend, and I hope he can work through these issues quickly.”
A grand jury in Washington County, Ky., indicted Webb in late February for theft by failure to make required disposition of property over $10,000. According to the indictment, Webb received the money in late November but didn’t use it for its intended purposes.
Burchett hired Webb on March 26 to replace John Troyer as finance director.
The mayor said Friday he didn’t know Webb was under indictment at the time in Kentucky.
Washington County resident and businessman Will Singleton said Friday he hired Webb last fall to build a $147,000 log cabin. He said he paid Webb between $22,000 and $26,000 to provide and install the home’s windows and doors. Webb, he said, never delivered and instead used the money to pay another construction crew for “tongue and groove” work.
Webb, of Athens, Tenn., owned Tennessee Log and Timber Homes before shutting it down early this year.
News release from comptroller’s office:
An investigation by the Comptroller’s Division of Municipal Audit and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation has led to the indictment of former Winchester finance director Mary Faye Morrow for the theft of more than $150,000 from the City of Winchester.
Investigators found that Ms. Morrow took many checks written to the city from the county court clerk for General Sessions and Circuit Court fines and fees to a nearby bank and converted them into cashier’s checks and cash. In a letter to city officials released today, Dennis Dycus, the director of the Comptroller’s Division of Municipal Audit, noted that the cash was never deposited into a city bank account and the cashier’s checks were later swapped for additional cash amounts taken from other city accounts.
Investigators found that during a six-and-a-half year period, ending when Ms. Morrow retired in December 2010, she had misappropriated more than $133,000 in checks from court fines and fees. Investigators also discovered more than $19,000 in cash seized from narcotics arrests was turned directly over to Morrow, but never deposited into the city’s bank account.
The Comptroller’s investigators attribute the theft to the city’s lack of separation of duties. Ms. Morrow receipted city collections, opened the mail and prepared bank deposits. As a result, she was able to perpetrate check-cashing and check-swapping schemes. Auditors recommend that no single employee be responsible for all aspects of financial transactions to safeguard against fraud.
“It is disappointing when people abuse positions of public trust,” Comptroller Justin P. Wilson said. “It’s true at any time, but particularly during difficult economic times, local governments cannot afford to lose public funds to fraud, waste or abuse. I encourage anyone who has credible information that fraud, waste or abuse is occurring in local government to call our hotline at 1-800-232-5454.”
To view the audit online, go to: http://www.comptroller1.state.tn.us/RA_MA/.
News release from TBI:
Chattanooga, Tenn. – The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation today arrested the former finance director for the City of Winchester after she was indicted by the Franklin County grand jury yesterday on theft, forgery and misconduct charges.
Mary Faye Morrow, 63, of Huntland, Tenn. was charged with theft over $60,000, two counts of official misconduct, forgery and tampering with government records. Morrow left the finance director position in July of 2010, but remained working in the office until the end of that year. The finance director who replaced Morrow took note of the amount of money coming into the system and the District Attorney General requested TBI open a case on missing funds in July of 2011. The comptroller’s office conducted an audit as part of the investigation.
Morrow was booked into the Franklin County Jail and posted a $10,000 bond
News release from Senate Republican Caucus:
(October 19, 2011, NASHVILLE) – State Senator Bill Ketron (R-Murfreesboro) and Representative Curtis Johnson (R-Clarksville) today announced that Lucian D. Geise has been appointed Executive Director for the Tennessee General Assembly’s Fiscal Review Committee effective November 1. Geise, who was unanimously confirmed by the committee today, is currently a Senior Legislative Attorney in the Legislature’s Office of Legal Services.
“As lead counsel for the Senate Finance, Ways and Means Committee, Mr. Geise brings a wealth of knowledge about the budgeting process to this position,” said Senator Ketron, who is Chairman of the Committee. “I am very confident in his ability to provide accurate information regarding the financial impact of legislation to our state budget, as well as providing wise counsel regarding the other financial matters that come before our Committee.”
Geise graduated cum laude from the University of Memphis and received his Juris Doctor from the Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law. Before coming to the legislature, he served as an Assistant Attorney General in the Tennessee Attorney General’s Office.
The Fiscal Review Committee is composed of six senators and nine members of the House of Representatives. The speaker of each house and the chairman of the Finance, Ways and Means Committee of each house serve as ex officio members.
“The Director of Fiscal Review also provides key information regarding our state’s contracts,” added Representative Johnson, who is Vice-Chairman of the Committee. “It is critical that we have a director who has the experience and qualifications to carry out these duties. Mr. Geise fulfills all of these qualifications.”
The Fiscal Review Committee was created by statute in 1967 as a special continuing committee of the General Assembly. The Committee is responsible for preparing fiscal notes for all general bills or resolutions which are introduced in the General Assembly that have a fiscal effect on state or local government. In addition, the Committee conducts a continuing review of the fiscal operations of state departments and agencies.
Jim White, who has served for eight years as executive director of the Fiscal Review Committee, has submitted his resignation effective Oct. 1 to return to the private practice of law.
Sen. Bill Ketron, chairman of the Fiscal Review Committee, says that a subcommittee will conduct a search for White’s successor.
On a short-term basis, Ketron says David Thurman, director of the Legislature’s Office of the Budget, will serve as interim executive director of the Fiscal Review Committee.
According to release issued by the governor’s office earlier today, Thurman will become state budget director on Oct. 10, replacing veteran Budget Director Bill Bradley.
White said in an interview that he will join the Nashville law firm of Jones, Hawkins and Farmer.
“Under the chairmanship of Sen. Ketron, the Fiscal Review Committee has done a lot of exciting things and those are largely complete,” said White. “I felt like this was an appriate time to return to my roots.”
White said that he sees the committee as having increased professionalism of its staff and “reinvigorated its oversight role” over the state’s finances, including reviews of non-competitive state contracts that are awarded.
The Fiscal Review subcommittee that will seek a successor to White will include Ketron, committee Vice Chairman Charles Curtiss, D-Sparta; Rep. Curtis Johnson, R-Clarksville; Sen. Reginald Tate, D-Memphis; Rep. Charles Sargent, R-Franklin, according to Ketron.
A news release on the Fiscal Review Committee changes is below.
News release from Rep. Blackburn
WASHINGTON- Congressman Marsha Blackburn (TN-7) today named Mike Reynard as her new Communications Director. Reynard most recently served as Communications Director for Senator Jim Bunning of Kentucky, who retired in 2010.
Prior to his service with Senator Bunning, Reynard served both Chairmen Bill Goodling and John Boehner, of the House Education and Workforce Committee. Blackburn’s office marks a return to the Tennessee delegation for Reynard, who served on the staff of Senator Fred Thompson in 1997.
Blackburn’s previous Communications Director, Claude Chafin, was named as Communications Director for the House Armed Services Committee today.
“For my whole congressional career, I have been blessed with a strong communications team to help me advance the priorities of Tennessee’s 7th District. I know that Mike will continue that tradition and I am honored to welcome him back to the Tennessee delegation,” Blackburn said.