News release from state comptroller’s office:
Around Easter, some employees at the Lincoln County Board of Public Utilities received Easter eggs with notes inside, informing them that they would be receiving special bonuses. Bonuses were also routinely doled out around other holidays such as Thanksgiving, Christmas and the Fourth of July – or, for some of the more favored employees – almost weekly.
The problem? The utility’s former superintendent didn’t have board approval to distribute nearly $300,000 in ratepayer money for bonuses from 2008 through 2011. And that was just one of many issues investigators from the Comptroller’s office found during a recent review of the utility’s practices.
Employees sometimes received bonuses for doing routine parts of their jobs, such as reporting water theft or scouting possible water intake sites along the river. Some employees received overtime pay even when they didn’t work extra hours. Employees also received bonuses through random drawings and marble handouts. One employee received a bonus for “adultery watch,” which apparently involved monitoring another employee during work hours.
Findings of the investigation, which were released today, document that the former superintendent also gave more than $13,000 in water adjustments – essentially, discounts on water bills and new water taps – to utility board members, employees and some customers. Nearly $4,000 of those adjustments were granted to volunteer firefighters who attended annual dinners held to foster good will between the utility and local fire departments. The rest of the adjustments were given at the former superintendent’s discretion.
The investigation also revealed that board members were overpaid more than $12,000 for attending board meetings, work sessions and “road trips.” And the former superintendent and former office manager made more than $10,000 worth of questionable credit card charges to the district, including more than $5,000 for meals for employees who were not traveling or conducting official business.
“Ratepayer money is public money, just as taxpayer money is,” Comptroller Justin P. Wilson said. “It is inexcusable for public officials to distribute or spend public money for unauthorized bonuses, water bill discounts or travel and purchases that do not serve work-related purposes. I hope the Lincoln County Board of Public Utilities will take appropriate steps to ensure that these types of abuses don’t occur in the future.”
To view the Comptroller’s report online, go to: http://comptroller.tn.gov/la/SpecialReports.asp
To view scanned images and photographs related to the investigation, go to: http://www.comptroller.tn.gov/repository/CA/2012/lcbpupictures.pdf
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Two collectors in Knoxville are trying to figure out what do with their latest acquisition: about 260 ballots from the 1864 Presidential election, most of which were cast for Abraham Lincoln.
Cole Piper of Knoxville said he and collecting partner Andy Simon of Maryville would probably sort through the items to find the ones they want to keep and may offer the rest to others.
Piper told the Knoxville News Sentinel (full story, by Mal Alder, HERE) that he and Simon bid $8,000 to purchase the collection of ballots, which were auctioned in Maryville last month. He said finding more than one ballot from the election is rare.
Most of the votes went to Lincoln and his running mate, Andrew Johnson, but 32 went to Gen. George McClellan and his running mate, George Pendleton.
News release from Eric Stewart campaign:
Winchester, Tenn. – Former Congressmen Bart Gordon and Lincoln Davis announced their endorsement today of State Senator Eric Stewart in his race to become the next U.S. Congressman to represent Tennessee’s 4th Congressional District.
Gordon and Davis said they support Stewart for his proven ability to work with both Republicans and Democrats in balancing Tennessee’s state budget and because of his focus on working families in Tennessee.
Congressman Bart Gordon, who served 26 years as a U.S. Congressman for Tennessee, says that Stewart’s focus on jobs, bipartisanship, and education is what the newly drawn 4th Congressional District needs in a Congressman.
A federal judge this week will consider naming a “special master” to get to the bottom of Tennessee Democrats’ assertions that voter data files received from state election officials contained partially or even totally blank voting histories for an estimated 11,000 voters. Andy Sher reports: Attorney George Barrett, who is representing Democrats in a federal lawsuit against Republican Secretary of State Tré Hargett and state Elections Coordinator Mark Goins, said U.S. District Court Judge Kevin Sharp heard the case Friday in Cookeville, Tenn.
The judge asked both sides to agree on how to deal with issues raised in court testimony, Barrett said.
Barrett, who is representing the Tennessee Democratic Party and former U.S. Rep. Lincoln Davis, D-Tenn., said both sides agreed Friday night on a consent order, which they intend to submit to Sharp this week.
…”We agreed to ask the court to enter a consent order, first of all for the 11,000 voters with some kind of missing history between December 2011 and May 2012,” Barrett said. “We’ve asked the court to appoint a special master to investigate those facts and see what happened, if anything.”
…Democrats said they noticed the missing or incomplete voter histories while comparing voter files from December and last month, both obtained from the state. They said 527 Hamilton County voters were among those with missing information.
Democrats are not alleging the state deliberately wiped files, saying it could have been a mistake because Republicans, Democrats and independent voters were affected. But they still say an independent eye is needed.
The state Democratic Party’s communications director, Brandon Puttbrese, testified Friday and confirmed Barrett’s account of the hearing.
The state also has agreed not to purge any more voter rolls until after the November election, Puttbrese and Barrett said.
The issue is important, Barrett said, because an inactive voting history can lead to a voter’s being purged from the rolls.
News release from Tennessee Republican Party:
NASHVILLE, TN – In response to former Democrat Congressman Lincoln Davis’ clear attempts to make a political statement by suing the state for properly purging state voter registrations, including felons and the deceased, Tennessee Republican Party Chairman Chris Devaney released the following statement:
“This lawsuit has nothing to do with voter integrity and everything to do with vengeance. Lincoln Davis just can’t let it go that he overwhelmingly lost his Congressional seat in 2010 and is now seeking revenge,” said Tennessee Republican Party Chairman Chris Devaney.
“He has sought to seek the limelight and make a political statement by wanting to restore the voting rights of thousands of convicted felons and dead people who were properly purged from voter rolls.
“It’s hard to make Democrats like Lincoln Davis understand the importance of having to show a photo ID, when he doesn’t even think that you should have to produce a pulse in order to vote.
“While Republicans want to protect the ballot box from voter fraud, Democrats like Lincoln Davis are still licking their wounds, wasting taxpayers’ money,” concluded Devaney.
News release from the law firm of Barrett Johnson, LLC
Nashville – Former Congressman Lincoln Davis filed a class action lawsuit today in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee to challenge the actions taken by Tennessee state government officials to unlawfully purge voters from the state’s voting rolls.
Last week, on March 6, 2012, Congressman Davis attempted to vote at the same precinct in Pall Mall, Tennessee where he has voted since 1995. Instead of casting his ballot, Congressman Davis was told that he could not vote because his name no longer appeared on the voter rolls. As a result, Congressman Davis was denied the right to vote, a right he has exercised in every election since 1964.
In order to ensure that all Tennesseans’ right to vote is protected, Congressman Davis has brought a class action lawsuit seeking a federal court order requiring the State of Tennessee to restore the names of all Tennesseans who were improperly purged from the State’s voting rolls.
“This lawsuit is not about me,” Congressman Davis said, “Rather, I’m taking this action to ensure that the State of Tennessee is required to restore all Tennesseans to the voting rolls whose names were improperly removed.”
Congressman Davis is represented by the law firm of Barrett Johnston, LLC, a law firm with a rich history of success in handling class action litigation and civil rights litigation, including voting rights cases, on behalf of individuals whose rights have been violated.
In bringing this action, founding partner, George Barrett said, “The right to vote is fundamental to any democracy, but it’s especially important to our American democracy, given the long history of government undermining the right to vote. Our law firm is committed to representing individuals, like Congressman Davis, whose right to vote has been violated by what we believe is a concerted effort by state government officials to suppress the vote in Tennessee this election cycle.”
A copy of the lawsuit is available by clicking on this link: Verified_Class_Action_Complaint_for_Declaratory_and_Injunctive_Relief_03.12.12.pdf
JAMESTOWN, Tenn. (AP) — Former Tennessee Congressman Lincoln Davis and his wife were turned away from their polling place thanks to a registration mix up.
Davis, who hasn’t missed an election since 1964, said when he was told he couldn’t vote, “I felt sick to my stomach.”
The situation was perplexing to Davis given his prominent status in the area. He not only served in Congress, but also represented the region in the state Senate and House of Representatives. He knows the poll workers and said the administrator of elections has a family farm that adjoins Davis’ own family farm.
“I see him out there feeding the cows,” Davis said.
Fentress County Elections Administrator Joey Williams said that in purging Davis and his wife elections officials acted on a notice received from the state that the couple had re-registered in neighboring Pickett County, where Davis once served as mayor in the county seat of Byrdstown.
The Administrator of Elections in Pickett County, Tim Clark, said the problem was on his end. Davis has voted in Pickett under the special category of property rights voter that allows him to vote in local elections only.
There are separate rolls for property rights voters and resident voters and Davis should have been only on the property rights voting rolls in Pickett County.
He lives in Fentress and should have been registered as a resident voter there for state and national elections, such as Tuesday’s presidential primary.
“It was a clerical error on our part,” Clark said. “We just messed up.”
The state Department of Elections on Wednesday issues an apology to Davis, but a spokesman also said Davis should have voted with a provisional ballot.
“I understand that he was very upset, and he had reason to be,” Blake Fontenay said, “but there was a remedy that he chose not to take.”
Davis was not offered a provisional ballot at the polling place, although after he went home and started making phone calls he was told he could go back in and vote with a provisional ballot.
Davis said he did not do that because he also was told he would have to re-register. Since registration has to take place in advance of voting, he worried that he would be accused of voter fraud and possibly have his voting privileges revoked.
State Election Coordinator Mark Goins said Wednesday that a “clerical error” by Pickett County election officials led to former Democratic Congressman Lincoln Davis being turned away when he tried to vote in Fentress County on Tuesday.
Davis had been voting in city elections of Byrdstown, which is in Pickett County, under a law that allows persons owning property in the city to vote in city elections. By mistake, Goins said, Pickett County officials treated that a general county registration and notified Fentress County election officials, who then purged Davis’ name from voter lists since his most recent vote was in a Byrdstown election.
“The clerical error has been corrected and Rep. Davis will be considered a resident voter in Fentress County and a property rights voter in Pickett County,” said Blake Fontenay, spokesman for the state Division of Elections, in a statement distributed Wednesday. UPDATE: Davis said Wednesday evening that he still resents the Fentress County election administrator, a neighbor, not notifying him that he and his wife that they had been purged as county voters. “That’s ridiculous,” he said.
He said that Goins did urge him to cast a provisional ballot in their Tuesday evening conversation. But he said Goins and Joey Williams, the administrator, both said he should go to the precinct and first register as a voter, then cast the provisional ballot.
“They were asking me to break the law,” Davis said.
State law, Davis said, requires a voter to be registered 30 days before an election. A late registration, he said, would be a reason in itself to void his vote.
Davis also said he recalls that his telephone conversation with Goins came about 6:45 p.m. with polls closing at 7 p.m. Goins said he recalls that it was about 6:20 p.m. Davis said his home is about a 10-minute drive from the voting precinct. Note: Fontenay’s full statement is below.
Former Congressman Lincoln Davis says he was denied the right to vote Tuesday in his native Fentress County, where he has been casting ballots since 1964.
“If I had moved here from somewhere else recently, maybe I could understand it,” said Democrat Davis. “But a former congressman, a former state senator and a civic leader… and nobody even notified me I’d been taken off the rolls?”
“Now I know how the black man must have felt a hundred years ago,” he said in a telephone call to a reporter.
Davis said he arrived at his usual voting place near his home in the Pall Mall community about an hour before the polls closed and was told by election officials he was not registered in the county and could not vote. Davis said he contacted state Election Coordinator Mark Goins, who let the decision of local officials stand.
The former congressman, who was defeated by Republican Scott DesJarlais in a bid for reelection in 2010, said he was told that he was registered to vote in adjoining Pickett County and could not vote in two counties.
Actually, Davis said he is registered to vote only in Byrdstown city elections and can do so legally since he owns property in the city, which is located in Fentress County and which he once served as mayor.
Davis said Tennessee has made it easier to vote in the past, being the final state approving women’s suffrage in 1920 and being a pioneer state in authorizing early voting.
“Why is it now that we’re making it harder for people to vote?” he said.
Blake Fontenay, a spokesman for the Secretary of State’s office and Goins, said the rejection of Davis as a voter was “regrettable and something we certainly did not want to see happen.”
“The bottom line on this one is we’re going to have to investigate to see what happened here,” Fontenay said. “How and why he got purged in Fentress County we don’t know yet.”
Fontenay said Goins advised Davis to cast a provisional ballot, but apparently the polls had closed before the former congressman could return to do so.
— UPDATE: Goins says he called Davis Tuesday evening after the former congressman had already talked at some length to Fentress County Election Administrator Joey Williams. Goins said both men urged Davis to return quickly to his precinct to cast a provisional ballot.
“He did not seem interested in voting provisional,” said Goins. “I kept saying, ‘Get down there and vote’. We can handle this.”
Goins said he was not certain of the time he talked with Davis, though it may have been about 6:20 p.m., which could have left time for Davis to get back to the polls.
A provisional vote allows a person to cast his or her ballot with a decision made later on whether it will be counted.
Goins said Davis appears on records as a registered voter for general elections in Pickett County, not just as a Byrdstown city voter, and was purged from Fentress County rolls. He said officials would look into details of the situation Wednesday.
“It’s not a situation where we were denying him the right to vote,” Goins said. “We’ve just got to figure this out.”