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.
A “push poll” is being conducted in the state’s 18th House District race between Rep. Steve Hall, the Republican incumbent, and Democrat Anthony Hancock, a former University of Tennessee and NFL football player.
From Georgiana Vines: Both candidates said they did not know anything about the poll, which appears designed to help Hall based on the questions and the Republican strength in Knox County.
Such a poll has questions designed to persuade voters to vote for a specific candidate.
One person in the district who received it, who asked to be anonymous, said the first questions dealt with how the voter felt Gov. Bill Haslam and U.S. Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker, all Republicans, were doing in office and which presidential candidate would get his or her vote in November.
The voter was asked if he or she would likely vote for Hall if he or she was a small-business owner, had voted for a balanced budget or voted to lower taxes on groceries. Hall recently retired as president of Interior Finishes Corp.
The Hancock questions were on whether it would matter to the voter that he is supporting President Barack Obama, a Democrat; if it mattered that Hancock was being investigated for campaign law violations; and that the same unions and special interest groups that support Obama are supporting Hancock.
…Drew Rawlins, executive director of the Tennessee Bureau of Ethics and Campaign Finance, said Friday no complaints have been filed regarding Hancock’s campaign financing.
Hall said the poll was news to him.
“I haven’t heard about any of that stuff. I’ve never done any polling in any race I’ve been in. I can’t justify the cost. Things change too fast. What may be good today, tomorrow is irrelevant. For polling to be effective you have to do it often,” he said.
Hancock said the poll is “crazy.”
“It’s a ploy, I guess. It must be a fierce campaign. We haven’t got to early voting yet,” he said. Early voting begins Oct. 17 for the Nov. 6 election.
As for supporting Obama, “I support anybody who will be the right person. My campaign is not geared toward Barack Obama. It’s geared toward Anthony Hancock,” he said.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Nashville Sheriff Daron Hall says he will not renew a controversial agreement that allows local deputies to enforce federal immigration law.
Hall began the 287(g) program in 2007 after an illegal immigrant killed two people while driving drunk.
Immigrant rights activists have fought it for years, saying it punishes immigrants who have committed only misdemeanor offenses. They also believe it encourages racial profiling.
On Tuesday, Hall said that since 2007, there has been an 80 percent decrease in the number of arrestees who are illegally in the country. He attributed much of the decline to the success of 287(g), although illegal immigration also has decreased greatly in recent years.
The program will be replaced with Secure Communities, in which the federal government checks the fingerprints of arrestees for immigration status.
News release from Hall Strategies:
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Gregory Gleaves, chief of staff to Tennessee Speaker of the House Beth Harwell and a former executive director of the Tennessee GOP, is joining Nashville-based public affairs firm Hall Strategies.
One of the most experienced political and grassroots campaign professionals in the Southeast, Gleaves will lead the firm’s campaign practice as director of grassroots campaigns. Gleaves will remain the Speaker’s chief of staff until August 6.
“Gregory has run numerous effective Tennessee campaigns,” said Joe Hall, Hall Strategies founder. “He possesses a strategic mind and sharp instincts and knows how to win. The addition of Gregory to our team will provide a competitive edge to clients who operate in the public arena.”
Said Gleaves, “Serving as Speaker Harwell’s chief of staff has been a true privilege. I appreciate the opportunity that she offered me to be a part of an important time for the House of Representatives. I am proud of the many accomplishments of the Tennessee General Assembly over the last two years. I am excited about joining a dynamic team at Hall Strategies and for this opportunity to build the best public affairs and grassroots team in the state.”
Gleaves was named chief of staff to the Speaker in January 2011 and served as Harwell’s principal aide, senior political advisor and primary strategic liaison to other government officials. He oversaw all operations of the House of Representatives, including management of 130-plus staff, administration, policies and procedures.
As executive director of the Tennessee Republican Party in 2010, Gleaves spearheaded efforts that led to dramatic change in Tennessee politics, including changing of the Congressional delegation from Democrat control to a 7-2 margin by Republicans, a win in the Governor’s office and a 14-seat GOP pick up for a commanding majority in the House. Gleaves has served as director of field operations for the Tennessee GOP in 2004 and executed a campaign plan that led to the first Republican majority in the State Senate since Reconstruction.
Gleaves is a former Southeast political director for National Federation of Independent Business and was a project manager for The Saint Consulting Group, a leading national grassroots campaign firm specializing in land use.
Gleaves’ background makes for a perfect fit with Hall Strategies, which has become a premier public affairs firm known for high-impact grassroots campaigns to support public policy, legislative issues and initiatives. The firm and its principals have run successful grassroots campaigns in support of numerous important Tennessee projects, including:
Smoke-free workplace legislation in 2007 to ban smoking in most Tennessee workplaces, including restaurants and bars;
State and local funding for the FedExForum project in 2001 for the relocation of the NBA Grizzlies to Memphis;
State approval of the Public Charter Schools Act of 2002, and expansion of the law in 2005;
Shelby County approval for Shelby Farms Park Conservancy, the largest urban park in North America, and in 2010, approval for an extensive greenway system; and
State approval in 2011 of teacher tenure reform proposed by Gov. Bill Haslam.
Gleaves has a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration from the University of Tennessee Knoxville and a Master of Arts in Political Management from The George Washington University. About Hall Strategies
Formed in 2004, Hall Strategies is a Nashville-based public affairs firm serving a roster of local, regional and national clients doing business in Tennessee, including Life Science Tennessee, Tennessee Economic Partnership, the Tennessee Automotive Manufacturers Association, Humanities Tennessee and the annual Southern Festival of Books, Live Nation, NHL Nashville Predators and Nashville Convention & Visitors Bureau. Hall Strategies is on the Web at www.hallstrategies.com.
Tennessee Republicans think they can turn yet another state House seat their way this year in a district stretching from Goodlettsville to Bellevue, reports the Tennessean. But Democrats believe they have a strong candidate to keep the District 50 seat in Metro Councilman Bo Mitchell, who will face one of three relative newcomers from the GOP ranks. Democratic state Rep. Gary Moore, a union advocate like Mitchell, is retiring after representing the district for eight years.
Early voting starts today. Mitchell, 41, is running unopposed on the Democratic side. The Republican race features Dwight “DJ” Farris, a 25-year-old Realtor; Dave Hall, 24, who works with data for Wyndham Resorts; and Charles Williamson, 51, a geologist, business owner and bison rancher.
…Both Williamson and Hall ran for House seats in 2010, while Farris is making his first bid for public office. Williamson lost to state Rep. Mike Turner of Old Hickory in District 51. Hall was the Republican nominee in District 50. He drew more than 42 percent of the vote but couldn’t unseat Moore.
Moore made an issue two years ago of the fact that Hall lived with his parents, which still appears to be the case. Hall and his father, Senate District 20 candidate David Hall, listed the same address and phone number when they qualified to run in April.
Hall said he’s legally old enough to run and that he would focus on cutting taxes, confronting illegal immigration and communicating with the people he hopes to represent.
“If you’re here illegally, we need to deport you,” he said. “We need you to come here through the proper channels.”
Farris, who said he closed his first real estate deal when he was a 20-year-old sophomore at Lipscomb University, said he would work to reduce regulations on businesses and create an environment that encourages student achievement and rewards successful teachers.
“People are ready to see someone that’s focused on creating jobs,” he said. “They understand that government does best when it gets out of the way of small business.”
Farris has been endorsed by Tennessee Right to Life, a pro-life group.
Williamson did not return two phone calls or an email seeking an interview this week. In a response to a request for basic information last month, he wrote that he decided to run because “I want to give back in a meaningful way and represent my neighbors with common sense leadership and a sincere willingness to work across party lines for solutions that keep Tennessee vibrant and strong.”
Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey told a Realtors group Monday of his plans to eliminate the state’s Hall Income Tax on investment income for those 65 years old and older, reports Hank Hayes. “If you think we’re retirement-friendly now, wait until we do that,” Ramsey, R-Blountville, said of killing the Hall Income Tax at the annual Northeast Tennessee Association of Realtors (NETAR) legislative luncheon.
The Hall Income Tax, enacted in 1929, has exemptions for people over 65 with total income less than $16,200 for a single filer or $27,000 for a joint filer.
Ramsey, who owns and operates a real estate and auction company, said the 6 percent tax “shocks” retirees when they move to Tennessee.
“When they start drawing out their 401(k)s, they have to pay income tax on that. That’s wrong,” Ramsey said. “We want people to save for their retirement, put some money back … be responsible and have this nest egg built up so they don’t have to live on Social Security.
“We want more people to retire here and buy a house. I’m a Realtor. I get this. … You would be shocked at the number of people who live in Tennessee but they reside in Florida. Now those people can move back.”
The Tennessean reports on the race for Senate District 20, where the GOP has carved out section Democrat-dominated Davidson County that both parties say is split fairly evenly between Democrats and Republicans. If Republicans were able to pull off a victory, even the plantation of Andrew Jackson, the father of the modern Democratic Party, would be in their hands — proof of the party’s strength in Tennessee.
…The seat’s current holder, Democratic Sen. Joe Haynes, will retire this fall after 28 years in the legislature. Three Republicans are vying to succeed him: physician Steve Dickerson, executive Rob Mortensen and contractor David Hall. The winner will face one of two Democrats in the fall: attorney Phillip North or professor James Baxter.
…North is favored to secure the Democratic nomination — so much so that party officials assume he’ll win the primary. He entered the race with Haynes’ blessing and has sought out campaign support from the state party.
Baxter, on the other hand, has not contacted party officials about his candidacy or shown many signs, such as a campaign website, of actively seeking the nomination. He did not respond to messages requesting an interview for this story.
“We have not heard a lot from James,” Forrester said. “Technically, we’re neutral.”
The Republican nomination appears to be up for grabs.
Dickerson, who lives in the Whitworth neighborhood off West End Avenue, hopes to build on the name recognition and experience he accumulated in an unsuccessful run for the state Senate two years ago, when he lost by more than 13 percentage points to Henry.
Dickerson looks to be the best financed of the three GOP candidates. He had raised more than $100,000 for his campaign when the first round of financial disclosures was filed in April. He has loaned his campaign another $100,000.
…Dickerson’s opponents in the Republican primary are unlikely to be able to match him in spending, but they have both worked to build competitive organizations.
Mortensen, the chief executive of a child services firm who lives near Lipscomb University, said he is logging as many as 10 appearances a week and has recruited close to 30 volunteers, including former Metro Councilman Buck Dozier, from across the district to campaign on his behalf.
…Hall, a home renovator from Goodlettsville, holds a reputation within the party of being a strong campaigner after a surprise victory in 2010 in the Republican primary for the 5th Congressional District. Hall upset a field of better-financed candidates mainly by employing his network of family and friends to knock on doors in Republican areas of Nashville, a strategy that he’ll largely repeat this year.
A group of students, teachers and alumni at a New York high school are calling for the removal of state Sen. Stacey Campfield from its hall of fame based on his comments on homosexuality and AIDS, reports The Tennessean. Several people denounced Campfield at an apparently raucous school board meeting in Vestal, N.Y., the small town near Binghamton where the Knoxville Republican grew up. The group called for his portrait to be taken down from Vestal High School’s Hall of Fame, with one woman shouting “Cowards!” at school board members when they did not immediately agree to do so, according to the Press & Sun-Bulletin, a Gannett sister paper.
Campfield told the paper they “are welcome to their point of view.”
The source of the controversy is a view Campfield shared with a radio host in January that AIDS entered the human population via a sexual encounter with a monkey. Most scientists believe humans first contracted AIDS by eating infected primate meat.
— Update: The board voted to keep Campfield’s portrait in place. AP story below.
The Tennessee Legislature won’t pass much in the way of tax cuts beyond what Gov. Bill Haslam is requesting for 2012, says House Speaker Beth Harwell. That means a reduction in the Hall tax on income from stocks and dividends — a tax Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey wants to see slashed this session — isn’t likely in the cards, she said.
More from TNReport:
“I do not think so this year,” Harwell said Thursday when asked if the Hall tax will make it to a floor vote. “We did, of course, take a bite out of that last year. But I think our focus now is going to be on the reduction of the death tax, elimination of the gift tax and a reduction of the food tax.”
Lawmakers have yet to take up a bundle of bills reducing taxes on Tennesseans as lawmakers push those measures toward the end of the spring legislative session, likely after lawmakers have a clearer picture of the state’s budget.
Former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich will have a “town hall” meeting at the state Capitol complex in Nashville as part of a presidential campaign trip to Tennessee on Monday, according to the Gingrich Tennessee campaign.
From an email to supporters: Speaker Newt is holding a public, Tennessee Town Hall on Monday, February 27th beginning at 3PM CST. He will personally be there and address those attending. The location is the Tennessee State Capitol Building, the East Side Grounds. A flyer is attached for your websites and mailings. This is a family friendly event, so kids are welcome. Home-schoolers … here’s a great chance to observe the political process up close and personal.
An evening fundraiser at a Franklin home had been previously announced. State Rep. Tony Shipley, R-Kingsport, co-chairman of the Gingrich campaign in Tennessee, says the candidate will spend a good part of the day in Tennessee with more details on events to follow.