State lawmakers are taking the Tennessee Housing Development Agency to task for tens of thousands of dollars spent on arcade outings and stretch limos, reports WPLN. THDA’s new director appeared before the Fiscal Review Committee Monday. Agency chief Ralph Perrey says now that he’s at the helm – quote – “what you will not see is us spending money to treat ourselves.”
THDA now estimates $75,000 was spent over the last two years on rewards. But before becoming executive director this month, Perrey was on the THDA board. So lawmakers ask why he didn’t act then.
“I was aware that we were doing some employee appreciation events. That didn’t raise a red flag to me when I heard it. It should have.”
See also a report on the hearing from Phil Williams, who first pointed out the spending on employee appreciation.
The Tennessee Legislature, which through much of the 1960s would routinely exclude the public and press from lawmakers’ “executive session” meetings, in February of 1974 adopted a landmark law that states in its preamble:
“The General Assembly hereby declares it to be the policy of this state that the formation of public policy and decisions is public business and shall not be conducted in secret.”
The statute is known as the “Sunshine Law,” and passage marked a change in attitude from prior years. It also marked a rare case of legislative advocacy by the state’s newspapers, represented by the Tennessee Press Association, with the late Ralph Millett, then editor of the News Sentinel, and Sam Kennedy, then editor of the Columbia Daily Herald, as point men.
“We decided to take the initiative, something that, as a matter of policy, we did not do,” recalled Kennedy in an interview last week. Normally, he said, the TPA became active in the Legislature only in opposing bills considered bad, not pushing legislation considered good.
The full article, written as part of a News Sentinel series on the newspaper’s history over the past 125 years, is HERE.
Former state Rep. Ralph Cole, 85, who represented Carter and Johnson counties in the General Assembly for more than a decade, died Friday. From the Johnson City Press: Cole had been suffering from cancer in recent weeks.
The Elizabethton Republican served until 2002, when he was defeated by Jerome Cochran in the Republican primary election.
Cole was an influential member of the House Finance Committee during his time in Nashville, and was noted for working hard for his district during the administrations of Govs. Ned McWherter and Don Sundquist.
“He was my friend,” said Sundquist. “He was a statesmen who always did what he thought was right. He was a man of courage and dedication and was successful in life in every way.
“You could always count on him that if it was right he would do it. I didn’t have to go to him and say ‘Will you do this?’ We need more men and women like that.”
Former state Rep. Robert “Bob” Patton, who represented the 7th District, sat one seat over from Cole in the Legislature and served alongside him on the House Finance Committee from 2000-2002.
“I really enjoyed serving in the Legislature with him,” Patton said. “He was somewhat of a mentor to me. It was often that I would check with him and talk about issues that were important and he was kind and considerate and would take the time to speak with me.”
Cole served as a state representative from 1990 to 2003. In addition to his political role, he was also the sales manager at Courtesy Motors Co. for 20 years and owned C&T Volkswagen-Subaru for 18 years.
…The graveside service for Cole will be private.