Five former state employees have been accused of abusing patients at Middle Tennessee Mental Health Institute and the TBI is investigating, according to WSMV-TV. “If those vulnerable patients are being mistreated by state employees, harmed or injured, we need action,” said State Rep. Gary Odom, D-Nashville.
…The five former employees (not named in the report) are accused of abusing two patients, one of them confirmed by the I-Team to be Matthew McDougal of Brentwood.
The termination records read that in two separate instances, once in April, and another in May, employees inflicted bodily injuries on McDougal and the other patient.
The reported abuse occurred in the forensic services program, where some of the most at-risk patients are located.
“If a patient is abused in that situation, there’s a failure of the system,” said Jeff Fladen, with the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
A spokeswoman for the TBI confirms on May 23, some 22 days after the last reported abuse, the Tennessee Department of Mental Health, which oversees the institute, asked the TBI to investigate.
The five employees were then fired the next month.
For a while Tuesday, Gov. Bill Haslam proposed to continue providing $2.4 million in annual funding to the school founded by World War I hero Alvin York for three more years, rather than shutting the money off after one more year as planned in the governor’s budget.
But spokesmen for about 200 supporters of York Institute – including a son and daughter of the sergeant who won the Congressional Medal of Honor – said that a cutoff of special state funding in three years is still inappropriately compromising a state government promise made to York in the 1930s.
“There’s probably going to be a floor fight in both chambers and we don’t know how it’s going to come out,” said House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga, who is carrying Haslam’s bill on York Institute funding (HB1278). “With this bill, we’ll have that fight in three years instead of this year.”
The bill also set up a “transition planning committee” to assist in transferring financial responsibility for operating York Institute to Fentress County from the state.
But after the cool reception for what the administration saw as a compromise, McCormick at first moved to put off a vote on the proposal until today. Then – after a meeting with Haslam – he returned and yanked it from further consideration by the House Education Subcommittee, effectively withdrawing the offer and leaving in place plans to shut off direct state funding on July 1, 2014.
At that point, York Institute would be treated just like any other public school with Fentress County operating the school and receiving state funding through the Basic Education Program (BEP) formula. Local officials said that a property tax increase would likely be needed to offset the loss of $2.4 million in the special allocation.
McCormick said that Herbert Slaterly, the governor’s legal counsel, is reviewing “a stack of old documents” provided by York supporters to determine exactly what commitment was made by the state when York Institution was created by a legislative act in 1936.
The governor’s administration “wants to ween them off the money,” said McCormick. Beyond that, he said specifics of what to do are up in the air.
Legislators defending the present setup – Sen. Ken Yager, R-Harriman, and Reps. Kelly Keisling, R-Harriman, and John Mark Windle, D-Livingston – all wore “York Forever” buttons. Basically, they contend that York wanted a school for rural youngsters and agreed to raise money and donate land to build the school in exchange for a state commitment to provide operational funding for the future.
In debate Tuesday, Rep. Joe Pitts, D-Clarksville, said that eliminating the state funding would “tarnish the image and the memory of Sgt. York and that’s something we just don’t want to do.”
But Rep. Mark White, R-Memphis, chairman of the subcommittee, said York’s legacy is not the only consideration. He declared that legislators also have “a fiscal responsibility to our state” because “unlike federal government, we have to balance our budget.”
The Campaign Finance Institute , which advocates some public financing of political campaigns, has done a state-by-state review of political contributions to races for governor and state legislature seats, ranking states in order of the percentage of population that made donations.
The review used the years 2006 and 2010, which CFI says were years in which most states had both gubernatorial elections and legislative campaigns. There were 33 such states in 2006 and 35 in 2010. (In Tennessee, where we have legislative elections every two years, 2006 was incumbent Gov. Phil Bredesen’s reelection year 2010 was the open-seat election won by Gov. Bill Haslam.)
The review shows Tennessee ranked 30th of the 33 states in 2006, with 0.67 percent of the state’s voting age population making donations to political campaigns. In 2010, Tennessee ranked 23rd out of the 35 surveyed states, with 0.89 percent of voting age population making donations.
The highest percentages were in Vermont and Rhode Island, which alternated as No. 1 in the two years surveyed. Both states have systems where public funding matches small donations from individuals. In 2010, Vermont was tops at 5.86 percent of adults donating to campaigns.
The lowest percentages were in states with higher populations – Florida, New York and California. In 2010, Florida had the lowest percentage, 0.22 percent.
Bills calling for some sort of public finances system have occasionally been introduced in Tennessee, though not in the last couple of legislative sessions. Those introduced previously all died in committee without a vote.
The CFI study, including the state-by-state table, can be seen by clicking on this link: 20121220_StateDonorParticipation-2006-V-2010.pdf
The Cato Institute, in a “fiscal policy report card” for the nation’s governors, has given Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam a ‘D.’ His numerical score is 43 on the Cato scale, which is lower than such governors as Jerry Brown of California and Andrew Cuomo of New York.
Here’s what Cato had to say about Tennessee’s governor: Bill Haslam is a former businessman and mayor of Knoxville. As governor, his best fiscal move so far is to repeal Tennessee’s inheritance tax. Haslam says the tax is prompting “a whole lot of people” to leave the state because “it’s cheaper to die in Florida.” Haslam originally called for an increase in the exemption amount, but he ultimately agreed to a full phase-out of the inheritance tax over three years. Haslam also signed a small cut in the sales tax on groceries. Balancing out those tax cuts, Haslam approved an increase in the state’s hospital tax from 3.5 to 4.5 percent of hospital net income. Haslam has also been leading the charge to increase taxes on Internet sales. State general fund spending rose about 14 percent during Haslam’s first year in office, which was a key factor in the governor’s low grade.
The full report is accessible HERE.
News release from National Institute on Money in State Politics:
When it comes to state elections, money and incumbency were key to success during the 2009-2010 elections-although not as much as they used to be. Two new reports from the National Institute on Money in State Politics examine the role that money and incumbency played in the 2009-2010 state elections, as well as how those two factors contributed to a state’s legislative competitiveness.
The reports, The Role of Money & Incumbency in 2009-2010 Elections and Monetary Competitiveness in 2009-2010 State Legislative Races found that 73 percent of legislative seats up for election were contested, up from 67 percent in 2007-08 and 69 percent in 2005-06. Races for 89 percent of the uncontested seats featured an incumbent. When seats were contested in the general election, the success rate of those with the incumbency advantage declined 7 percent from the comparable 2005-06 elections, and 9 percent from the 2007-08 elections. Candidates who had both the money and incumbency advantages dropped from 96 percent between 2005-06 to 88 percent between 2009-10. In the same time frame, the success rate of candidates with neither advantage increased by 4 percent.
The new head of a Tennessee agency that inspects and certifies jails will have authority over the jail run by her husband, Wilson County Sheriff Terry Ashe, reports Brian Haas. Gov. Bill Haslam appointed Beth Ashe to be executive director of the Tennessee Corrections Institute, an agency devoted to training, maintaining standards and inspecting jails in Tennessee. The appointment already has drawn fire for being a potential conflict of interest because her agency holds the key to keeping Wilson County’s jail approved to house state inmates.
“Her agency is responsible for inspecting and certifying her husband’s jail,” said attorney Jerry Gonzalez, who has represented inmates in lawsuits — including suits against Wilson County’s jail.
“You don’t have to be a rocket scientist or an ethical philosopher to recognize that that is an inherent conflict of interest.” John Lachs, who actually is a professor of ethical philosophy at Vanderbilt University, agreed, saying Beth Ashe probably shouldn’t have been appointed in the first place..
“The obvious first thing to do is to not even create this perception of a conflict of interest,” he said. “You just avoid it.”
But the governor’s office, the institute’s chairman and Ashe herself defended the appointment, saying that any final decisions on jail matters are decided by the agency’s board, not her.
“I don’t see the connection,” Beth Ashe said. “I answer to the board of control, so they give me my direction.”