Tag Archives: Mark

Mark Clayton Sues TNDP

Mark Clayton, the out-of-nowhere candidate who won the 2012 U.S. Senate Democratic primary election and was promptly disavowed by the Tennessee Democratic Party, has sued the party and dozens of its officials, according to The Tennessean.

In a lawsuit filed this week, Clayton says party leaders, including then-Chairman Chip Forrester, “constructively voided his primary victory by publicly stating that they disavowed him as the nominee, that he was not really the party nominee and that he was not really a Democrat and generally treating his nomination as if it did not happen.”
Gerard Stranch, an attorney for the Tennessee Democratic Party, said the suit “is clearly without merit” and that the party would be filing a motion to dismiss it. He declined to elaborate.

Clayton, whose name was first on the ballot, won the seven-candidate primary by a landslide on Aug. 2, 2012. His victory stunned and embarrassed Democratic officials, who had failed to recruit a more formidable contender.

The state party quickly disassociated itself from Clayton, saying he had rarely voted for anyone but himself in Democratic primaries and that he belonged to an anti-gay hate group, Public Advocate of the United States. The party urged voters to write in any other name during the general election in November.

…The lawsuit, filed in Davidson County Circuit Court, says officials forcibly removed Clayton from party headquarters when he asked to review records last October and that they made false and misleading statements about him.

It asks that they be found in violation of state law, fined $500 each and charged with court costs and “reasonable attorney fees.”

Note: A news release/statement sent by Clayton to media is below.
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Memo Raises Lack of Competition Question in Two State Contracts

A memo prepared for Sen. Bill Ketron, chairman of the Legislature’s Fiscal Review Committee, says that the Department of General Service’s “emphasis on expeditiously completing procurements” may have limited competition for two state outsourcing contracts, reports WTVF-TV’s Phil Williams.
An excerpt:
A recent meeting of the legislature’s Fiscal Review Committee, called to consider three questionable state contracts, ended up being a highly orchestrated endorsement of the Haslam administration.
The governor’s chief of staff, Mark Cate, had met privately with members of the contracts watchdog committee prior to the public session. And, by and large, committee members responded with effusive praise. Some suggested that, in this case, the media had got it wrong.
But a staff report, not shared with the full committee, told a more complicated story regarding at least two of the three state contracts.
Read the memo (HERE).
“Staff did not find evidence in the documentation reviewed that any violation of state law occurred,” the Fiscal Review Committee’s executive director, Lucian Geise, wrote in a July 15 memo to the committee’s chairman, Sen. Bill Ketron, R-Murfreesboro.
“However,” Geise concluded, “an emphasis on expeditiously completing procurements resulted in actions that may have reduced competition.”
And that was what our NewsChannel 5 investigation had suggested in the case of contracts awarded to Enterprise Rent-A-Car and Bridgestone Retail Operations.
Ketron never shared the staff memo with the rest of the committee.
A spokesperson for the Senate Republican Caucus said that the memo was written for Ketron’s “personal” benefit because he had been out of the country.
“He was not asking for information as chairman of the committee,” she said. “Rather, he asked for information in light of the fact that the stories appeared during his absence.”

Cate on Jones Lang LaSalle Deal: Minor Miscues, Major Savings

Mark Cate, the governor’s chief of staff, acknowledged to state legislators Tuesday that mistakes were made in handling a multi-million dollar contract for management of state buildings but declared the overall effort a huge success that other states now want to emulate.
Appearing before the Legislature’s Fiscal Review Committee, Cate said Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration entered “unchartered territory” in contracting with Chicago-based Jones Lang LaSalle with inherent “complications and confusion” occurring at times.
One mistake was in not being sufficiently transparent about the move to legislators and the public, he said. Another was not drafting the original, competitively-bid proposed contract to reflect the maximum value to the winning company, he said, instead of listing it just as a $1 million study and later changing the amount upwards as new duties were added.
Cate also said officials have decided to have “a fresh set of eyes” conduct another review on one of JLL’s recommendation – demolishing the Cordell Hull building, which stands next to the state Capitol and is one of six major structures statewide slated for demolition as “functionally obsolete.” This has triggered some controversy in Nashville because of what Cate called the building’s “perceived historical significance.”

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Haslam, Cate say no favoritism shown toward lobbyist Ingram

Gov. Bill Haslam and his chief of staff, Mark Cate, said Tuesday they show no favoritism toward Tom Ingram’s lobbying clients, though Cate’s emails indicate considerable friendly contact with Ingram and an associate.
Several of the emails obtained by WTVF-TV involved HR Comp Employee Leasing, a Knox County firm that had problems with the state Department of Insurance and retained The Ingram Group’s lobbying and consultant services. The firm, owned and operated by Andrea Ball of Powell, at one point was found to be operating without a state license and agreed to pay $10,000 in a consent order.
In one email, Ingram describes the company’s situation as “a very troubling case.” In another, Marcille Durham, president of the Ingram Group, says Andrea Ball would like to meet with him about departmental action “driving her out of business” and Cate replies that he is “optimistic we can find a resolution.”
Both Cate and Ball said in interviews Tuesday that they had never met.
Cate said “I don’t really see any point” in the TV report on his email since he was merely doing his job of dealing with people who have issues with one part of state government or another.

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Ingram may not lobby Haslam, but does lobby top staff

Gov. Bill Haslam has insisted that Tom Ingram, a lobbyist who gives him private advice for an undisclosed fee, does not lobby him on behalf of other clients. But WTVF reports that Haslam administration emails show Ingram clients had “enormous access” to the governor’s top advisers.
The story’s prime example is Chris and Andrea Ball, who had been cited in 2012 for operating a staff leasing company without a license, the station says. They showed up at a bill-signing ceremony shortly afterwards and a Tennessean headline on a story reprting this asked, “Who Invited This Couple?”
At the time, Haslam aides told reporters it was a mystery who invited the couple to attend the signing of a bill that regulated staff leasing companies.
But emails obtained by NewsChannel 5 Investigates show Haslam’s administration was well aware of the couple. The Balls had hired Ingram.
His firm sent regular updates about the Balls to the governor’s chief of staff, Mark Cate.
…In March 2012, Marcille Durham of the Ingram Group sent an email to Cate, “Andrea Ball would very much like to visit with you, however briefly, regarding the Department of Insurance action that is driving her out of business.”
Cate responded that he talked with the Department of Insurance Commissioner and is “optimistic we can find a resolution.”
In April 2012, Ingram emailed Mark Cate about the Ball’s company, “Is there anytime today or tomorrow I can talk again about HR Comp Employee Leasing LLC.  This is a very troubling case.”
A month after that, the Balls appeared at the bill signing.
Then in July 2012, Durham complained to Cate about a specific “fraud investigator” with the state. She was concerned about the “level of  surveillance” on the Balls company.
Cate asked to be “kept in the loop.”
The emails show a level of access likely to make other lobbyists envious.
Ingram and his firm communicated regularly with Cate, even when he was on vacation in the Bahamas and on holiday weekends.

Norris leads Legislature in Taking a LEAP

In a trip to Germany last November, Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris was impressed with BMW’s long-running apprenticeship program, which retains more than 90 percent of its recruits for careers at the company, reports Richard Locker. Gov. Bill Haslam, meanwhile, has been talking up the notion of having state schools do more to train students in job-specific skills for businesses.
Norris, a lawyer, drafted a bill himself to try to accomplish that, enacting the Labor Education Alignment Program, or LEAP, that he and others shepherded through the General Assembly this year with the backing of the Haslam administration and the state’s higher education governing boards.
LEAP is a statewide comprehensive program to provide students at community colleges and the former Tennessee Technology Centers — which were renamed Tennessee Colleges of Applied Technology on July 1 — the opportunity to combine occupational training in a high-skill or high-tech industry with academic credit applied toward post-high-school credentials. Students would take academic courses tailored for careers and work in paid apprenticeships and get academic credit for both.
…Norris said he believes LEAP was one of the most significant programs enacted by the 2013 legislature, even if it received little publicity.
“It’s work, earn and learn. The goal is to increase the percentage of Tennesseans with a postsecondary credential — an associate degree or higher — from 32 percent now to 55 percent by 2025,” Norris said.
That’s the goal of Haslam’s “Drive to 55” initiative, in which he cites studies showing that by 2025, at least 55 percent of jobs in the state will require some level of higher education. “The risk is that Tennessee doesn’t prepare the graduates that we need for the workforce and all these businesses that we’re recruiting go somewhere else. It’s really that simple,” the governor told business and education leaders when he kicked off the series of discussions last July at the governor’s residence.
The new LEAP law requires a curriculum focused on high-skill jobs, emerging occupations and skilled manufacturing jobs, including advanced manufacturing, electronics, information technology, infrastructure engineering, and transportation and logistics. Some will be offered to students starting in 2014.
Norris said he believes LEAP was one of the most significant programs enacted by the 2013 legislature, even if it received little publicity.
“It’s work, earn and learn. The goal is to increase the percentage of Tennesseans with a postsecondary credential — an associate degree or higher — from 32 percent now to 55 percent by 2025,” Norris said.
That’s the goal of Haslam’s “Drive to 55” initiative, in which he cites studies showing that by 2025, at least 55 percent of jobs in the state will require some level of higher education. “The risk is that Tennessee doesn’t prepare the graduates that we need for the workforce and all these businesses that we’re recruiting go somewhere else. It’s really that simple,” the governor told business and education leaders when he kicked off the series of discussions last July at the governor’s residence.
The new LEAP law requires a curriculum focused on high-skill jobs, emerging occupations and skilled manufacturing jobs, including advanced manufacturing, electronics, information technology, infrastructure engineering, and transportation and logistics. Some will be offered to students starting in 2014.

Norris Reelected TACIR Chair

News release from Senate Republican Caucus:
(NASHVILLE, Tenn.), June 20, 2013 — Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris (R-Collierville) has been reelected Chairman of the Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations (TACIR). The election took place during a two-day meeting of the commission in Nashville on June 19 and 20. Norris has served as Chairman since 2009 and begins his third two-year term.
“I appreciate the confidence that the members have placed in me to serve another term in this leadership role, ” said Senator Norris. “I look forward to continuing to build strong relationships between state, municipal and county governments and to work on solutions to substantive issues that we face together as Tennesseans.”
The General Assembly approved legislation this year directing TACIR to conduct a comprehensive study on annexation and make recommendations to the General Assembly on how to improve the process statewide. Their report is due in January. “This study requires in-depth research by the staff and thoughtful consideration by the members of the commission. I am pleased to continue to lead TACIR as we look into this issue as well as many others.”
TACIR began in 1978 after legislative findings indicated the need for a permanent intergovernmental body to study and take action on questions of organizational patterns, powers, functions, and relationships among federal, state and local governments. The 25-member group is made up of public officials from state, county and municipal governments as well as private citizens. Mayor Tom Roland of Cleveland, TN, was reelected to serve as Vice-Chairman.
Senator Norris has served as Tennessee’s Senate Majority Leader since 2007. He is Chair-elect of the Council of State Governments, a national organization which also fosters and encourages intergovernmental cooperation.

An Emkes Exit Interview: Overcoming ‘Steep Learning Curve’ for ‘Operational Excellence’

The start of a Knoxville Business Journal article on Mark Emkes, the recently departed state finance commissioner who may exemplify the kind of business-oriented guy Gov. Bill Haslam likes to have in state government:
Insofar as knowledge about operations goes, there was quite a contrast at the outset of Mark Emkes’ last two executive undertakings.
When he became CEO of Bridge- stone Americas Holding Inc. in 2004, Emkes says he had firsthand experience in virtually all aspects at the world’s largest tire manufacturer — from changing tires, his first job in a Texas Firestone store back in 1975, to subsequently managing company dealings in locales from the United Arab Emirates to Brazil. Firestone was acquired by Japan-based Bridgestone in 1988.
“You know everything they know,” Emkes recalls about managing the company’s thousands of employees in North and South America.
That was not the case when Emkes became CFO for the state of Tennessee, a position officially known as commissioner of the Department of Finance and Administration. That is the top position among the 22 commissioners hired by Gov. Bill Haslam.
“When I walked into this job, I didn’t know anything about state government,” Emkes says. “The learning curve is really steep.”

Fleischmann Tries to Block Public Release of Campaign Strategy Materials

For the second time, U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann is asking a Nashville judge to seal court records that would reveal his campaign’s inner workings, according to the Chattanooga Times-Free Press.
The Ooltewah Republican’s goal is to prevent political opponents from seeing or distributing 1,800 pages of polling research, internal emails and strategy memos. Someone suing Fleischmann requested the documents as part of the civil discovery process.
In a filing, Fleischmann’s attorney said the congressman would supply the papers as long as they’re hidden from public view.
“The Court should order that any of these documents filed with the Court should be placed under seal, only to be opened in accordance with a subsequent court order,” the motion for a protective order states.
Fleischmann, an attorney, is joined in the motion by his co-defendant, Chip Saltsman, the congressman’s longtime political adviser and onetime Washington-based chief of staff.
Both men are fighting a defamation lawsuit stemming from claims in a three-year-old Fleischmann TV ad. Documents filed in Davidson County Circuit Court this week show the case is set for trial Feb. 24.
Political operative Mark Winslow filed the lawsuit. During the 2010 Republican primary, he worked for Fleischmann’s toughest opponent, former Tennessee GOP Chairwoman Robin Smith.
In an interview Friday, Winslow attorney Gary Blackburn said Fleischmann’s polling data motivated Saltsman to create “negative ads” that twisted the truth and ruined Winslow’s professional reputation.
“If a congressman’s tracking the success of lies,” Blackburn said, “shouldn’t the public be allowed to know that?”
Through a spokesman, Fleischmann declined to comment. He has described the lawsuit as “frivolous” and politically motivated. Saltsman, a well-known Republican strategist who managed former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee’s 2008 presidential campaign, did not respond to a request for comment
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Haslam: No State Aid in Memphis Vehicle Emissions Squabble

Gov. Bill Haslam has decided that state government will not take over the Memphis/Shelby County vehicle inspection program or provide any money to help run it, according to the Commercial Appeal. Memphis Mayor A C Wharton notified City Council members of the governor’s decision in a memo.
That message, Wharton wrote in the memo, came from Mark Cate, Haslam’s gubernatorial chief of staff, in a conference call that also included Tennessee Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Robert Martineau and Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell.
Memphis has voted to stop funding vehicle emissions and inspections programs in a push to force countywide if not region-wide testing to meet air quality standards mandated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Ever since emissions testing began some 30 years ago, only Memphis motorists have been required to undergo the process — even though the entire county is now classified by the EPA as violating federal standards for ozone pollution.
…The city has been spending some $2.7 million a year on testing, and that funding ends on July 1. Wharton said he and Luttrell will work on a solution, and it appears they may have an 18-month window to do show a “good-faith effort” toward compliance.
…In Wharton’s memo, he spells out the loss of potentially hundreds of millions of dollars to the city, the county and to suburban municipalities as well.
Council member Lee Harris said Thursday the decision is part of a political “soap opera” in which the governor was caught in the crosscurrents between Memphis, which has historically required auto inspections, and state legislators representing parts of Shelby County outside of Memphis, which have not required auto inspections.
“The reason the governor reached that decision is clearly political,” said Harris, who led the efforts to drop auto inspections in the city on grounds that city residents are having to carry the entire burden of meeting EPA pollution standards even though the suburbs contribute to the same pollution.
“Instead of the governor showing some leadership, he said, ‘Look, I’m just going to punt the ball.’ It’s really a soap opera now. It’s hard to believe that somebody elected to office would just cave. It’s really discouraging,” Harris said