Tag Archives: rawlins

Editorial: Haslam Should Disclose Personal Payments to Ingram

Excerpt from a News Sentinel editorial on Gov. Bill Haslam hiring Tom Ingram with personal funds to serve as a consultant:
Haslam has said he still consults Ingram on political matters but pays for that advice out of pocket. The campaign finance disclosure forms he has submitted since his election show no payments to Ingram.
But they should.
Drew Rawlins, who is the executive director of the Bureau of Ethics and Election Finance, said in an interview that an officeholder’s out-of-pocket payments for a consultant are not necessarily required to be included on disclosures. If an officeholder seeks advice on governance, he or she might not have to report the payment. If the candidate receives campaign advice, Rawlins said, disclosure would be required.
The solution is simple. Haslam should file amended campaign finance disclosure forms that reflect Ingram’s pay for political advice. And he should transfer funds to his campaign account to cover the costs. Though not necessarily required by the letter of the law, disclosure would enhance the governor’s standing as a proponent of openness.
As governor, Haslam should be transparent about the money he spends on political matters. There is nothing wrong with paying Ingram — or anyone else, for that matter — for political insight. He just needs to divulge such transactions to the citizens of Tennessee so they know who is speaking into the governor’s ear.

Registry of Election Finance: Legislators Like It, Others Question Effectiveness

State legislators seem pleased on a bipartisan basis with the way Tennessee’s campaign finance watchdog agency performs, but one concerned citizen, Mike Hart, wonders if that’s not the equivalent of foxes being pleased with oversight of the hen house.
That agency, the Registry of Election Finance, on Wednesday will be dealing with a complaint from News Sentinel contributing columnist Pam Strickland over “irregularities” in financial disclosures of Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett.
“They are accessible, responsive to questions and they seem to be well-organized,” says Sen. Bo Watson, R-Hixson, who serves as Senate speaker pro tempore and chairman of the Senate Ethics Committee. “They just run a good operation.”
“They’re not set up over there to do witch hunts,” said House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner of Nashville. “They try to accommodate candidates who, they understand, can make mistakes. They’re going to make sure you get it right, but they’re not going to persecute you.”

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Jail Ministry Volunteer Jailed

News release from TBI:
Chattanooga, Tenn. – The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation has arrested a Dunlap, Tenn. man for sexual contact with an inmate at the Sequatchie County Jail where he was volunteering his services to help the prisoners.
Charles Rawlins, 63, of 198 Elm Street, Dunlap, Tenn. was arrested yesterday and charged with sexual contact with an inmate and coercion of a witness. On July 22, 2011, TBI and the Sequatchie County Sheriff’s Office began investigating allegations that Rawlins was having sexual contact with an inmate while volunteering with the jail ministry program and overseeing the Sequatchie County food bank where inmates work. Earlier, this week Rawlins approached a witness in the investigation who felt threatened by a comment Rawlins made about the case against him.
Rawlins was booked into the Sequatchie County Jail where he’s being held without bond until a court appearance on August 19, 2011.

Ethical Secrecy at the Ethics Commission?

The Tennessee Ethics Commission this week denied a public records request from TNReport seeking the number of complaints the body has received and investigated, reports Andrea Zelinski in an article on the sometimes secretive panel.
“We can’t verify a complaint has even been filed,” said Drew Rawlins, bureau executive director who also oversees the Registry of Election Finance. He said releasing the information would allow people to deduce when a new case has been filed and who it may be against.
His office pointed to Section 3-6-202(a)(1) of Tennessee state code, which says the commission members and staff “shall preserve the confidentiality of all commission proceedings, including records relating to a preliminary investigation.” The Office of Open Records Counsel, which falls under the state comptroller, agreed with the records denial.
All complaints filed with the commission that are immediately thrown out are closed to public inspection, Rebecca Bradley, an ethics specialist at the Bureau of Ethics and Campaign Finance, said.
The records only become public if the alleged violator requests the documents be open or if the commission believes the allegation has probable cause, even if the commission ultimately scraps the investigation, the law says.

That has been interpreted to mean even the number of complaints, without any information on the substance, cannot be disclosed.
The commission has never found anyone guilty of an ethics violation. The panel has disclosed only that five cases have been thrown out during the five years that the commission has existed.