MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — Police have arrested former Shelby County interim Mayor Joe Ford on charges of writing a bad check and theft.
The Commercial Appeal (http://bit.ly/TFy6Iy) reports Ford was lodged on Tuesday morning in the Shelby County jail. A police report says the charges stem from a $1,301.23 check written to Lauderdale Liquors.
Online jail records don’t show whether he has an attorney.
Ford served on the County Commission and was then appointed as interim county mayor from December 2009 until August the next year, when he lost an election to Mark Luttrell.
WASHINGTON (AP) — Open your notebooks and sharpen your pencils. School for thousands of public school students is about to get quite a bit longer.
Five states were to announce Monday that they will add at least 300 hours of learning time to the calendar in some schools starting in 2013. Colorado, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York and Tennessee will take part in the initiative, which is intended to boost student achievement and make U.S. schools more competitive on a global level.
The three-year pilot program will affect almost 20,000 students in 40 schools, with long-term hopes of expanding the program to include additional schools — especially those that serve low-income communities. Schools, working in concert with districts, parents and teachers, will decide whether to make the school day longer, add more days to the school year or both.
A mix of federal, state and district funds will cover the costs of expanded learning time, with the Ford Foundation and the National Center on Time & Learning also chipping in resources. In Massachusetts, the program builds on the state’s existing expanded-learning program. In Connecticut, Gov. Dannel Malloy is hailing it as a natural outgrowth of an education reform law the state passed in May that included about $100 million in new funding, much of it to help the neediest schools.
A 2,000-acre tract of land in the Rocky Ford area of Unicoi County will become Tennessee’s 55th state park, officials said Tuesday in a ceremony announcing the land has been conveyed to the state.
From the Johnson City Press report on the event: Gov. Bill Haslam said he grew up not too far from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which is the country’s most visited national park and is regarded for its scenic beauty. However, he said the sights and scenery offered in Rocky Fork, a portion of which is set to become Tennessee’s newest state park, rival those offered in the national park.
“You see the waterfalls and incredible protected woodland area, it’s a great thing to have,” Haslam said. “In Tennessee, what we want to do is we want to protect those things that make Tennessee special and we want to provide opportunities for all citizens to be out and enjoy them. This is going to allow us to do both of them.”
The governor and U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, as well as state and local officials, were on hand at the Zane Whitson Welcome Center on Tuesday, where it was announced that around 2,000 acres of the approximately 10,000-acre tract that makes up Rocky Fork will become the state’s 55th state park.
– Note: The TDEC news release is below.
An aide to Sen. Ophelia Ford was fired Tuesday in the wake of a TNReport story that showed him apparently conducting political work while collecting his state paycheck. “As of today, Derek Hummel’s employment with the Tennessee General Assembly has been terminated,” Office of Legislative Administration official Tammy Rather told TNReport via email.
Hummel had been executive secretary for Ford, D-Memphis, since April, drawing a $30,468 annual salary. He’s also been working for the Phillip North campaign, a Democrat locked in a tight race against Republican Steve Dickerson for a Davidson County state Senate seat.
Full story HERE. Previous post HERE.
A Tennessee Senate staffer appears to have been doing political work while collecting a full-time state paycheck, an apparent violation of state law, public records and documents reviewed by TNReport show. Derek Hummel has been executive secretary for Sen. Ophelia Ford, D-Memphis, since April of this year, drawing a $30,468 annual salary. Over the past three months, he has also been conducting political activities during state business hours on his state-issued computer, according to phone records and Facebook postings.
Hummel has identified himself as field director for the Phillip North for State Senate campaign. Hummel was paid $625 in September by the North campaign, according to campaign finance filings released last week.
When TNReport visited Ford’s office at the Capitol last week to interview Hummel, no one was present, but Hummel’s desk was strewn with what appeared to be campaign material, and political documents were visible on his taxpayer-funded desktop computer.
During an attempt to interview Hummel today, he accused TNReport of violating state law by calling him on his government-office phone.
“You’re an idiot,” Hummel told TNReport. “I’m calling Bill Fletcher,” he added, before abruptly hanging up. Fletcher is a prominent Tennessee Democratic campaign advertising specialist and political strategist.
…According to a state law call the “Little Hatch Act,” state employees are prohibited from “engaging in political activity not directly a part of that person’s employment during any period when the person should be conducting business of the state.” The law mirrors the federal Hatch Act.
— Note: The state Republican party’s rapid response team had criticizing news release out promptly. Here it is:
Tennessee Republican Party Executive Director Adam Nickas today released the following statement regarding a news report that Democrat State Senate candidate Phillip North’s Campaign Field Director ran campaign operations out of the legislative office of Sen. Ophelia Ford (D-Memphis) with state-owned equipment on state time: “Phillip North has set a new low for public corruption. Without ever serving a day in the legislature, Phillip North has managed to violate our system’s most basic legal and ethical boundaries. It is disgraceful that North would allow a state employee to work on his campaign full-time while drawing a check for full-time work from the taxpayers of Tennessee. North has broken trust with the citizens of Nashville by having taxpayers subsidize his campaign effort. He should immediately return to taxpayers the money his field director took while he was explicitly doing political work on state-owned equipment on state time.”
ERWIN, Tenn. (AP) — The U.S. Forest Service has completed its purchase of a large undeveloped tract of land in the Appalachians.
The tract, known as Rocky Fork, is nearly 10,000 acres and lies in Unicoi and Greene counties in East Tennessee. The Johnson City Press (http://bit.ly/WvsG15) reported $5 million in funding from the USDA helped it finalized the purchase of 1,200 acres — the last section that was privately owned.
Preserving as much of Rocky Fork as possible became a priority of the U.S. Forest Service when it acquired the first parcel of it in 2008 as the land went up for sale.
In all, the Forest Service has spent $40 million to keep 7,667 acres open for public use. The Conservation Fund owns about 2,000 acres of the tract.
“This final Forest Service acquisition is huge, not only in the number of acres, but in potential economic impacts,” District Ranger Terry Bowerman said in a statement about the purchase. “It will also help conserve and protect many outstanding natural and scenic resources. This is truly a dream come true for many people.”
Former congressman Harold Ford Jr. has agreed to become a member of Robert Pera’s Memphis Grizzlies ownership group, reports the Commercial Appeal. Less than two weeks after Pera added some star power in the person of homegrown pop star and actor Justin Timberlake, he’s come to an agreement with the former five-term congressman from Memphis.
“I’m honored to be a part of Robert’s ownership group,” said Ford, who did not specify what percentage of the team he will own. “He’s a genuine guy and a great guy.”
Ford said he met Pera through mutual friends more than a year ago, before Pera began his pursuit of the Grizzlies. When Pera reached an agreement with Michael Heisley to buy the franchise, Ford said he had the same concerns as everyone else.
“I still have a home in Memphis; I didn’t want to see the team leave,” he said. “I watched the speculation and read the articles. But from the beginning, Robert assured me that moving the team was not his desire. He’s serious about making the team a success on and off the court. He’s even more serious about making sure there’s local involvement.”
When former state senator John Ford returned to Memphis last week after four years in federal prison, his TV news cameo raised the unlikely prospect of a political comeback, according to The Commercial Appeal. “You watch what I do,” Ford told reporters before disappearing into a halfway house where he’s banned from media contact. “I am not down. I am not out. I am way out in front.”
There’s a state law that says people convicted of a felony involving a political office can never run for public office again. The law change marks the end of an era in Tennessee, where politicians once could return to offices they’d disgraced.
Yet, Ford might have some wiggle room.
One of the law’s primary sponsors, former state Rep. Frank Buck, said last week he’s unsure if the law applies to Ford, who was convicted in April 2007, just weeks before it took effect July 1.
“It may or may not apply to him,” said Buck, a Smithville, Tenn., attorney. “You’d have to ask the attorney general on that one. I had some questions, too. You get always into the ex post facto situation.”
Previously, disgraced officials found plenty of opportunity to reinvent themselves.
Former Memphis city councilman Rickey Peete did just that, going to prison in 1989 for bribery only to win re-election and return to prison in 2007 — again for bribery. In so doing, he earned a nickname — ‘Rickey Re-Peete.’
Politicians such as Peete became eligible to retake office after getting their voting and civil rights restored in a court of law. They can still get their rights restored under the new law — they just can’t hold elected office.
The law says the ban applies to state government as well as “any political subdivision.” Cities and counties are considered political subdivisions of the state.
“They ought to be eternally banned from office,” offered Buck, who said his bill was motivated by repeated scandals he witnessed over his 36 years in the legislature. “Something needed to be done.”
Whether Ford, now 70, even wants back into politics is an uncertain question.
His brother, Joe Ford, thinks not.
“I doubt it. They passed that law where you can’t go back,” said Ford, a former Shelby County commissioner and one-time interim county mayor. “When we’re together we don’t talk about politics. I don’t want to speak for him. But that would be something he would have to decide.”
Former state senator John Ford returned to Memphis on Monday, four years and four months after he left to serve a term in federal prison for bribery, reports the Commercial Appeal. “He looked good. Good spirits. He looks to get his life back,” said his brother, Joe Ford.
“We’re glad he’s back. It’s been pretty hard on his family.”
Released from the Federal Correctional Institute in Yazoo City, Miss., Ford reported to a halfway house at 1629 Winchester, where he’s expected to remain for at least the next week. Ford’s 5-year sentence expires in February. Federal inmates often are released to a halfway house about six months prior to the expiration of their terms.
What comes next for Ford, 70, remains unclear. He could work for one of his relatives’ three funeral homes.
“If he asks, it won’t be a problem,” said Joe Ford, whose Joe Ford Funeral Home is across the street from the halfway house where his brother is staying.
James Williams, executive director of Dierson Charities, which runs the halfway house, declined comment.
Ford reported to prison on April 28, 2008 following his 2007 bribery conviction in Memphis.
Veteran state Rep. Dale Ford, R-Jonesborough, was defeated in his bid for reelection by Micah Van Huss, a first-time candidate who owes much of his campaign success to a generous benefactor in Middle Tennessee, says Robert Houk. How could a political newcomer like Van Huss pull off such a win? The answer is easy — money. And not his own. A report in The Tennessee Journal (a weekly newsletter dedicated to Tennessee politics and business) noted that Andrew Miller, a Nashville businessman, was “financing independent radio attacks on state Sen. Doug Overbey, and Reps. Charles Sargent, Debra Maggart and Dale Ford in their Republican primaries.”
…Miller’s direct involvement in the 6th District race troubles some Washington County Republicans. One asked, “Why in the world would someone in Middle Tennessee care about who we send to Nashville?”
Several local government officials also told me they were disappointed to see Ford lose his seat in the House because they considered him to be their go-to guy in Nashville. That’s not something they say of Hill.
Republicans eating their own is certainly not new, at least not in Northeast Tennessee. Ford’s defeat reminds more than a few local politicos of the 2004 GOP primary that saw Hill knock off incumbent Rep. Bob Patton, R-Johnson City. Hill was aided in that race by a series of attack ads funded by individuals who lived outside the 7th District.