Tag Archives: Miller

The Haslams are a giving family, politically speaking

A nationwide analysis of contributions to political causes indicates that the Haslams are the leading family of “elite donors” in Tennessee.
The Sunlight Foundation last week released a list of the “1 percent of 1 percent” — 31,385 people nationwide who represent just .01 percent of the nation’s population but who made 28 percent of all political contributions involving campaigns for president and congressional offices in 2012. (Link HERE)
In Tennessee, 430 individuals made the list, contributing almost $17.3 million as a group.
Eight of the “elite political donors” in Tennessee are members of the Haslam family, including patriarch James “Jim” Haslam II, who founded Pilot Corp. as a young man. He and his son James III, or “Jimmy,” made the top 10 for Tennessee.
Jimmy Haslam was No. 5 with $176,550, his father seventh with $159,450.

Continue reading

History Repeating Itself at DCS?

Former Gov. Phil Bredesen fired Michael Miller as commissioner of the Department of Children’s Services in 2003 and named another commissioner, Gina Lodge of the Department of Human Services, to serve as his interim successor.
About a decade later, we find Gov. Bill Haslam accepting the resignation of DCS Commissioner Kate O’Day and naming another commissioner, Jim Henry of the Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, to serve as her interim successor.
A clear distinction, of course, is that Bredesen fired his first DCS commissioner, saying he had been unable to provide “the cultural change” that was needed and as illustrated by various critical reports with a lawsuit involved and media attention.
Haslam’s first DCS commissioner resigned on her own violation, acknowledging she had become a “distraction” because of various critical reports with a lawsuit involved and media attention.
Haslam says he did not ask for the resignation and thinks O’Day had done “a lot of good things” to improve the department. Well, maybe.
O’Day helped prepare a DCS budget for the coming fiscal year that executes what comes across as a turnaround from two prior Haslam budgets. Until the plan outlined in his Jan. 28 “state of the state” speech, DCS had been in cutback mode along with most other state agencies.
The new budget will add 62 caseworker positions — a contrast with continuing cutbacks elsewhere in state jobs — with higher pay for those already there and meeting some new qualification criteria. There is still some DCS cutting, but the department nets $6.7 million in new money and more workers, presumably where they are most needed.
After Lodge did her stint as interim DCS commissioner under Bredesen, the former governor brought in Viola Miller, who had run the equivalent of DCS in Kentucky, to take the job on a long-term basis. By most accounts, Miller was a hard-nosed administrator but got the department on track toward resolving its long-running problems.
In 2010, the last year of Bredesen’s reign, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, for example, issued a report declaring DCS had “improved drastically” since a highly critical 2002 review. Some child advocacy groups said nice things, too, and a lawsuit was resolved with a condition that the department’s doings be monitored.
State Rep. Sherry Jones, D-Nashville, perhaps the Legislature’s best-known advocate on children’s issues, says she often clashed with Miller, “but at least she listened” and O’Day did not. Jones says DCS staffers told her that Miller considered Jones “our worst enemy” in the Legislature because of critical questioning and at the same time “our best friend” because of Jones’ willingness to support DCS in areas where she thought they were right.
Jones served on the Select Oversight Committee on Children and Youth, which focused on DCS and which was abolished by the Republican-controlled Legislature last year.
The monitor making reports in accord with the Bredesen-era lawsuit settlement reported last year that, after a period of significant improvements, reform efforts had lost momentum in 2011. Which, of course, was when the Haslam administration took over. In fairness, the report blamed many of the difficulties on the department’s new computer system, authorized under the Bredesen administration.
The department was also the target of a new lawsuit, brought by The Tennessean with other media outlets joining in, over access to records of children who died after DCS involvement.
The hope, of course, is that history will further repeat itself and DCS will be back on track toward improving things.
Henry, the interim commissioner, is respected as an advocate in the general area and as a man with very good people skills. Indeed, the governor might consider removing the “interim” from his title. He had a relatively warm reception at a Senate Health Committee hearing last week, appearing after O’Day resigned the day before she was to appear before the panel under what probably would have been considerably more hostile circumstances. Maybe Haslam will find his own new, improved second DCS commissioner.
Either way, it’s a shame that something wasn’t learned from DCS history to avoid all this.

Continue reading

DCS Fires Two Top Executives

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.

Russ Miller Named CEO of TMA

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The state’s largest physician organization is making some staff changes for the new year.
The main one that takes effect this week is the move of Russ Miller from executive vice president of the Tennessee Medical Association to chief executive officer.
Miller is a veteran public relations and marketing professional who has been with TMA since 1987. He takes over for Don Alexander, who is retiring after 40 years with TMA.
The organization represents 8,000 physicians and medical students statewide and is one of the most powerful lobbying groups in the state Legislature.

Sunday Column: Time to Drop Campaign Contribution Limits?

The limitations on contributions to political candidates in our fair state have become so meaningless that maybe it’s time to just get rid of them.
The thought is inspired by last week’s Registry of Election Finance decision to dismiss contentions that two political action committees violated the limits law. The facts were similar, but the case involving Truth Matters PAC perhaps is the best illustration.
Andrew Miller Jr., a politically astute Nashvillian of substantial wealth, started talking up establishment of a PAC with friends sharing his views a year or so ago. The views, it seems, are more conservative than those of many Republicans, and Miller has become known as “a RINO hunter.” Or, perhaps more properly, as a supplier of ammunition to RINO-hunting candidates. RINO, of course, stands for “Republican in name only.”
Truth Matters was set up in July with Miller giving the PAC $71,000. With the Aug. 2 Republican primary looming, the PAC — which consisted then of Miller and his brother, who was listed as treasurer — promptly distributed money to conservative Republican legislative candidates trying to unseat suspected RINOs or, in other cases, prevent their election.

Continue reading

Registry Dismisses ‘Conduit’ Charges Against Two PACs

The board that enforces Tennessee’s campaign finance law voted Tuesday against imposing any penalties in two cases where political action committees were accused of illegally sidestepping limits on how much money can be given to candidates for the state Legislature.
In one case, Andrew Miller Jr., a Nashville businessman, set up Truth Matters PAC in July and gave it $71,000. The PAC then contributed to 10 legislative campaigns, including eight that had already received the maximum allowable donation from Miller as an individual.
Registry of Election Finance staff had raised the possibility that the PAC had been used as an illegal “conduit,” allowing Miller to bypass the limits on campaign contributions he could give the candidates as an individual.
Miller, attorney James Weaver and Tracy Miller, Andrew’s brother and treasurer of the PAC, told the Registry board they could understand the suspicion. But they said that, looking outside the “snapshot” period of the covered by the Truth Matters’ first report, the PACs activities showed Miller had obtained pledges of contributions from others before the filing and they did, in fact, contribute to the PAC after the filing.
“If I’m guilty of anything, it’s getting in a rush,” said Miller, referring to his failure to wait until others contributed to the PAC before sending PAC donations to candidates he supported.
Registry board member Lee Anne Murray said she understood that an intent to bypass campaign limits was necessary to impose a penalty and the statements by Miller and a man who intended to contribute earlier showed their was no intent to act as a conduit. Member Henry Fincher disagreed, saying the PAC had actually acted as a conduit bypassing campaign donation limits though Miller appeared “a nice guy” who was not trying to act illegally.
Fincher said that :when the next guy, who is not so nice,” does the same thing, he will be able to argue as a precedent, “Well, Andy Miller did it. Why not I?”
The board voted 4-2 against imposing any penalties. The board’s newest member, Norma Lester of Memphis, joined Fincher in voting no on the motion to dismiss.
In the other case, Green PAC was set up by Mark Green, a candidate for state Senate from Clarksville. The PAC had three donors – Green making a $250 contribution and two other men making a total of $8,000 in donations. The PAC then donated $8,000 to Green, the only candidate to get a contribution during the PAC’s first reporting period.
Rachel Barrett, treasurer of the PAC, told the Registry that Green PAC received contributions from other people after the reporting period and also gave money to multiple candidates later. Only Fincher voted no on the motion to dismiss a complaint that had been filed by Mary Mancini, executive director of Tennessee Citizen Action.

House District 14: Haynes vs Miller

The News Sentinel’s Jim Balloch takes a look at the House District 14 race:
At 27 years of age, Knoxville Republican Ryan Haynes is seeking a third term in the Tennesseee House of Representatives. And he is still the youngest member of that body.
At 57, Jerome Miller, his Democratic challenger for the 14th District seat, is making his first ever run for public office.
Haynes appears to have all of the advantages one could ask for to keep his seat.
He has name recognition that goes with being an active and energetic incumbent. His party is the majority in the distritct. And he has a bigger war chest.
But Miller, a soft-spoken grandfather, believes he has a trump card in his favor — if he can get enough exposure in the race for enough voters to see it.
“There is nothing like experience in life,” Miller said. ” I have life experiences that he does not have, and I’m not just talking about because of the differences in our ages. Age is only a number. It is a question of how can you make decisions affecting the people in your district if you have not been exposed to the many things your constituents go through on a daily basis?”
Miller, originally from Asheville, N.C., is a mechanical engineer at the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant, where he oversees liquid waste operations.

McCormick Will Have No Democratic Foe

Hamilton County Democrats will have no one on the Nov. 6 ballot opposing state House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick in the 26th Legislative District race, reports Andy Sher.
McCormick, R-Chattanooga, still has an opponent, though — independent W. Rodger Cooksey, of Hixson.
Democratic Party Chairman Paul Smith said Wednesday that after nominee Larry Miller withdrew from the race on Aug. 24 to take a job in Texas, Democrats had only 10 days to replace him. They couldn’t do it.
“We talked to several people, but with such short notice and [name] recognition, we felt there was not enough time,” Smith said.
The party would have had to hold a caucus and time constraints made that impractical, Smith said.
“We didn’t just want to put a name up there,” he said.
Last month, Miller said he was going to the University of Texas at Austin where he will be the director of the National Institute of Staff and Organizational Development.

A ‘Wild Goose Chase’ for a Photo ID

Libby Miller was rejected as a voter for lack of proper photo identification and in a subsequent attempt to get one was told that the supposedly free card would cost $17.50, according to her parents.
At least 284 people statewide were stopped from casting a ballot in the Aug. 2 election because they had no photo ID, officials reported. But that figure doesn’t include people like Miller who did not request or receive a “provisional ballot.” No record is kept of those who were simply turned away without a provisional ballot.
Miller, a “mentally challenged” 60-year-old who has voted in every election since registering as voter at age 18, was disappointed at being turned away from the ballot box by poll workers who knew her, said her mother, Viola “Vi” Miller, 82.

Continue reading

Registry Delays Decision on Miller’s PAC as a ‘Conduit’

A Nashville businessman told the Registry of Election Finance board Wednesday that he had counted on others to join him in financing a political action committee and conceded that their failure to do so raised the appearance that he has violated state law.
Disclosures filed prior to the Aug. 2 primary election show Andrew Miller as the sole contributor to Truth Matters PAC. The PAC was created July 10 and Miller, president of HealthMark Ventures, gave it $71,000.
At the time, Miller as an individual had already given the $1,400 maximum contribution allowed under state law to eight candidates for the state Legislature. The PAC then gave contributions of up $7,100 to the eight candidates.
Recipients in East Tennessee included Reps. Tony Shipley, R-Kingsport, and Jeremy Faision, R-Cosby; along with Republican primary winning candidates Timothy Hill of Blountville and Micah Van Huss of Jonesborough.
Drew Rawlins, executive director of the Bureau of Ethics and Campaign Finance, told the Registry board that his staff believed the moves raised the question of whether Miller used the PAC as an illegal “conduit” to circumvent the limits on how much money can be given to candidates.

Continue reading