Tag Archives: executive

GOP Panel Meets in Secret on Election Challenge

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A special panel of members of the state Republican Party’s executive committee is meeting behind closed doors to consider an election challenge in a legislative primary race.
The six-member subcommittee appointed by Chairman Chris Devaney was scheduled to meet in Nashville on Thursday morning to evaluate the challenge brought by Shirley Curry, who wants to overturn her four-vote loss in the House District 71 primary.
Adam Nickas, the executive director of the party, wouldn’t say why the public wouldn’t be allowed to follow the hearing and declined to elaborate on the basis for Curry’s challenge.
The special panel will make recommendations to the full executive committee on Sept. 5.
Messages seeking comment from Curry and Dennis were not immediately returned on Wednesday.

Note: The six members of the subcommittee are Rob Ailey of Seymour, chairman; Betty Cannon of Nashville; Beth Campbell of Nashville, Kurt Holbert of Decaturville; Paula Sedgewick of Arlington and Ken Gross of Knoxville.

Vance Dennis’ Four-Vote Win Challenged

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The state Republican Party is setting up a special panel to hear an election challenge in a legislative primary race.
Shirley Curry, a member of the party’s executive committee, is challenging her four-vote loss to incumbent Rep. Vance Dennis of Savannah in House District 71.
State Republican Party Chairman Chris Devaney on Monday appointed a subcommittee to hear the dispute this week. A full panel is scheduled to meet about Curry’s and any other potential challenges on Sept. 5.
Curry has recused herself from the hearings.
Dennis was first elected to the House in 2008. His district was significantly redrawn in this year’s redistricting process.
Seven Republican incumbents in the state House lost their primaries on Aug. 2.

TRA Gets Executive Director, Two New Part-time Directors

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.

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TRA at Standstill; No Leaders Named to Overhauled Panel

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.

Newly-Created TRA Top Job Draws 18 Applicants

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.

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Haslam Shifts Oversight of Drug Courts

News release from governor’s office:
NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today announced an executive order to change the management and oversight of state drug court programs as part of his administration’s ongoing effort to increase government efficiency and effectiveness.
Executive Order No. 12 transfers the drug court programs from the Department of Finance and Administration (F&A) to the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (TDMHSAS) effective July 1, 2012.
TDMHSAS oversees the licensing and funding for indigent Tennesseans needing substance abuse prevention, treatment, and recovery support services. The transfer of the drug courts to TDMHSAS will lessen duplication of effort and align with the department’s role as the substance abuse authority in the state.
“Management and oversight of Tennessee’s drug court programs are consistent with the focus of the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, and we believe it makes more sense for the department to manage these programs,” Haslam said.
Drug courts were established as an alternative to jails and prisons and are designed to foster recovery. For many arrested on drug-related offenses, prison is not the answer, and research has shown treatment costs are lower than costs associated with incarceration.
Drug courts refer clients to substance abuse community agencies that provide intervention and treatment services, which are funded, contracted and licensed by TDMHSAS. The department and the Office of Criminal Justice Services in F&A have had discussions about transitioning the programs and are prepared for a smooth transition.
“We are facing a major prescription drug problem in our state,” TDMHSAS Commissioner Doug Varney said. “We need to focus all of our resources in the most efficient, effective and collaborative way to maximize our impact on this issue and drug abuse overall.”
Drug court activities are also closely aligned with other programs currently overseen by TDMHSAS. For additional information about Tennessee’s drug court programs or other mental health and substance abuse programs please contact TDMHSAS’ Office of Communications at (615) 253-4812 or visit www.tn.gov/mental.

Sunday column: Haslam’s Veto and the Balance of Power

Gov. Bill Haslam wisely waited until the day after 107th General Assembly had permanently adjourned to announce he was for the first time exercising a right granted by the state constitution to act as judge, jury and executioner of legislative acts.
Actually, the governor only rarely is assured of executioner status. But Haslam has it with the veto of a bill that would outlaw Vanderbilt University’s “all-comers” policy.
As Haslam has noted in explaining why he didn’t veto other stuff, a gubernatorial veto can be overriden by a simple majority of the Legislature. The “all-comers” bill passed 19-12 in the Senate; 61-22 in the House.
At the federal level and in many states, a two-thirds majority is required to override, which in this case means a repeat of the original vote on an override effort would have meant sustaining the veto. Not so in Tennessee.

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TVA Executive Pay Has Soared Since Salary Cap Removed

Since Congress removed the pay cap for employees of the Tennessee Valley Authority seven years ago, the base salary for 155 of the utility’s top managers has risen above the $174,000 annual pay given members of Congress, according to the Chattanooga TFP.
TVA is shelling out nearly $30 million a year more for its top brass than it did before TVA’s board was restructured and the limit on TVA salaries was removed by Congress in 2004. Despite the extra cost, proponents of the change insist it has helped TVA attract and retain top managers and allowed the federal utility to operate more like a private business.
“For TVA to compete for the best talent with other utilities, it needs to pay competitive salaries and that just wasn’t possible in the past,” said Dr. Warren Neel, executive director of the Corporate Governance Center at the University of Tennessee, who has served on the boards of 15 publicly traded companies. “For the past decade, TVA has been set up and is operating more like a private company, and I think that leads to better performance.”
…U.S. Rep. John Duncan, R-Tenn., the dean of Tennessee’s congressional delegation, has opposed the higher pay for TVA’s top executives. Duncan said no federal employee needs to be paid more than the president’s $400,000-a-year salary.
Former TVA Chairman Craven Crowell, who was paid $145,100 in his final year in 2001, remains critical of the reforms.
“Simply put, this legislation was never carefully thought out and citizens of the valley were never given an adequate opportunity to have input,” Crowell said.
…In fiscal 2011, the total compensation for TVA’s top five officers ranged from $1.95 million for Chief Nuclear Officer Preston Swafford up to $3.95 million for Chief Executive Tom Kilgore, according to filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
Kilgore’s salary was nearly 10 times above President Barack Obama’s and nearly 23 times higher than salaries for senators and congressmen
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Cancer-stricken State Employee Charges Illegal Firing

A longtime state employee who has been diagnosed with cancer has filed suit charging that top officials in Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration illegally terminated him in violation of some of the same civil service laws and rules the governor is seeking to abolish, according to the Tennessean.
William B. Wood, 54, of Nashville has charged that he was terminated without cause or notice just six months before he would have become eligible for retirement health insurance. His suit, filed in Davidson County Chancery Court, states that Wood currently is unable to get coverage or treatment for his cancer.
The suit charges that Wood’s job, as an attorney and workers’ compensation specialist, was improperly classified as “executive service” and that he was improperly denied the right to challenge his dismissal. The suit comes as Haslam is seeking legislative approval for sweeping changes in the state’s civil service statutes, contending the 70-year-old system provides too much protection for hundreds of poorly performing public employees.

Lucian Geise Named XD of Fiscal Review Committee

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.