A House subcommittee approved Wednesday legislation (HB884) that exempts members of the Democratic and Republican state executive committees from filing conflict-of-interest reports required of state and local government officials and candidates for elective office.
House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga, said he sponsored the bill at the request of “a couple” of Republican Executive Committee members and also talked with some Democratic legislators, who said they had no objections.
McCormick said that, since the executive committee members have no oversight of taxpayer dollars, they feel there is no reason to require disclosure of their financial interests – which makes some of them uncomfortable. He expressed willingness to modify the measure, or even drop it, if there are objections. But none came from the committee.
Brent Leatherwood, executive director of the Tennessee Republican Party, said the party had nothing to do with proposing the bill, but thinks it is a good idea.
“This is a bipartisan effort that relieves party activists, who are not in a policy-making capacity, from an unnecessary government regulation,” Leatherwood said in an email.
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.
State Sen. Janice Bowling of Tullahoma will not be removed as a member of the Republican State Executive Committee after all.
She had been more or less automatically removed earlier for missing three consecutive meetings of the Executive Committee, according to state GOP Chairman Chris Devaney. But Bowling disputed the contention (Previous post HERE) and party officials have accepted her point.
Devaney’s letter to Executive Committee members explaining the situation is below.
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.
Recently elected state Sen. Janice Bowling is fighting her removal from the Tennessee Republican Party’s executive committee for having missed three consecutive meetings, reports Andy Sher. State Republicans said the removal was automatic after Bowling missed a Dec. 1 executive committee meeting. The Tullahoma lawmaker said that while she was unable to attend called committee meetings in March and June, she thought she had avoided a problem by securing “valid proxy” for purposes of constituting a quorum and voting.
Bowling said she participated in at least one, possibly two, party meetings conducted by telephone following the March and June meetings. She contends she didn’t miss three “consecutive” meetings.
She said she missed last week’s meeting because of a secondary infection due to a “severe allergic reaction.” She said she ran a high fever and had to be treated with antibiotics. Bowling, who was elected Nov. 6 to represent District 16, said she suspects the cause of her illness was black mold in her assigned Senate office.
…State Republican Party Chairman Chris Devaney has said automatic removal is in the bylaws.
But Bowling wrote to him with her arguments about the proxies and the telephone meetings.
After speaking with her, Devaney said, “we are currently looking into her interpretation [of the rules] and will not move forward with the process of filling the vacant position set forth in our bylaws until the matter has been thoroughly reviewed.”
Elected to the state Senate in November, Republican Janice Bowling, of Tullahoma, automatically lost her position on the GOP’s State Executive Committee after missing her third consecutive meeting over the weekend, reports the Chattanooga TFP. On Saturday, GOP Chairman Chris Devaney told executive committee members the move was required by the party’s bylaws, attendees said. The state GOP’s political director, Michael Sullivan, on Monday confirmed Bowling had been removed.
“This is all just standard operating procedures according the bylaws of the state party and was in no way a removal of office for any other reason than the automatic trigger of three consecutive absences,” Sullivan said.
Efforts to reach Bowling on Monday were unsuccessful. The removal from the Republican State Executive Committee does not affect her status as an elected senator….A panel has been named to recommend a replacement at the committee’s next meeting.
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Tennessee Valley Authority’s board has chosen a former energy chief from North Carolina, who was ousted from his previous company earlier this year, to succeed retiring Tom Kilgore as the chief executive of the nation’s largest public utility.
Bill Johnson was CEO of Progress Energy and had been slated to lead Duke Energy when the two companies combined to form the nation’s largest investor-owned utility in July. But within hours of the merger Johnson was out, replaced by Jim Rogers, who had been Duke’s CEO but was slated to become executive chairman.
The surprise ouster has prompted North Carolina’s utility regulator to investigate whether the state and public were misled during the merger approval process.
At a news conference in Knoxville on Monday, TVA Board Chairman Bill Sansom expressed total confidence in the board’s choice of leadership. He said the board was unanimous in its support for Johnson.
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.”