State Sen. Frank Niceley has launched a blog with initial posts on topics ranging from “Rocky the squirrel” being foiled in an attempt to break into the state capitol complex (with photo) to a reminiscence on “legendary East Tennessee criminal defense attorney Ray Jenkins.”
The very first post provides a hat tip of sorts to Sen. Stacey Campfield, a fellow conservative Republican who was apparently the first state legislator to start a blog several years ago. Therein Niceley recalls a conversation with then-House Speaker Jimmy Naifeh: “Frank, you all have to do something about Campfield,” he said obviously agitated, “he has a blog!” I replied, “what’s a blog?” Naifeh paused and responded, “I don’t know but it sounds bad.” He hurried off.
The blog is entitled “Frank Niceley said, What?” with the subhead “politics, history, humor, farming.. You’ll find it HERE
While U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander has devoted a lot of time and effort to burnishing his partisan Republican credentials in preparation for next year’s re-election run, he has also been deftly including a history lesson from his background on the value of bipartisanship.
That came on Jan. 17, 1979, when Alexander was sworn into office as governor of Tennessee three days ahead of the announced inauguration day. Democratic Gov. Ray Blanton was removed from office ahead of schedule and thus blocked from granting further end-of-term pardons and paroles to imprisoned criminals.
The events of that day, those leading to it and the lay of Tennessee’s political landscape in that bygone era are thoroughly chronicled in “Coup,” a book written by Keel Hunt that is being published this summer by Vanderbilt University Press. It is a recommended read for anyone interested in Tennessee history or politics.
Hunt makes it clear that Alexander, then a 30-something lawyer best known for walking across the state in a red-and-black plaid shirt during his gubernatorial campaign, was reluctant to get involved in Blanton’s early ouster. The scandal-ridden Blanton administration had probably contributed substantially to Alexander’s 1978 campaign win.
In the face of intense political pressure, the board of the Knoxville Tourism and Sports Corp. on Friday voted to accept the retirement of Ray, who is the organization’s president and CEO and has drawn criticism for a compensation package that exceeds $400,000, reports Josh Flory. The board hasn’t yet achieved closure, though. Ray’s retirement is contingent upon the two sides reaching an agreement about its terms. If no agreement is reached, the board appears willing to fire Ray at a meeting in two weeks, but it will have to decide if there is legal cause for such an action under her contract.
Ray told the board on Friday that she does not believe termination with cause is warranted, but if she is fired without cause Ray is entitled to three months of compensation as severance. Whatever the outcome, the forced retirement represents a stunning fall from grace for a woman who has been a trailblazing leader in Knoxville.
Ray was the first women’s athletic director at the University of Tennessee, the first woman to serve as commission chair of the Knoxville Utilities Board, and in 2010 was inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame. In addition, KTSC operates out of a building on Gay Street that bears her name.
From the News Sentinel:
The county’s two top leaders today called for the resignation of Gloria Ray, the president and CEO of the Knoxville Tourism and Sports Corp., which has come under fire in recent weeks as officials and the media have begun looking into how the non-profit organization spends its money and how much it pays its workers.
Both Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett and Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero said they want Ray and the five-member KTSC executive committee, which sets her salary, to step down.
In addition, Burchett asked the state Comptroller of the Treasury to audit “that entity’s financial dealings” because of his “grave concerns and complete lack of confidence in the due diligence, oversight and stewardship of taxpayer dollars.”
Ray, who earned more than $411,000 in fiscal year 2011 makes about $200,000 in base salary. But, she also receives a $50,000 signing bonus, another $86,000 if she stays on through June and an additional $166,000 in bonuses for completing her contract, which expires in mid-2013, according to KTSC documents.
“I have lost total confidence in the KTSC board as it exists in light of the amount of money that Gloria’s been paid,” Burchett said.
Later this morning, Rogero called for the resignation of Ray and KTSC’s executive committee in a press conference.
Ray’s compensation is “not consistent with what the community expects,” Rogero said.
In another development this morning, KTSC Attorney Ward Phillips said a number of aspects of Ray’s compensation were properly authorized, but a number may not have been.
(Note: This is a slightly revised version of a Sunday column written for the News Sentinel.)
Back when Democrat Ray Blanton took over as governor of Tennessee from Republican Winfield Dunn, there were mass firings of state employees with mass hiring under a brand-new system.
Blanton had an officially designated statewide “patronage chief” who oversaw the hiring and firing of state employees. Each county also had its own patronage chief, who reported to the boss in Nashville.
While that may not have been the worst part of Blanton’s legacy, it was still something that governors who followed did not want to emulate. GOP Gov. Lamar Alexander surely did not, and took pains to be fair with state workers.
Still, Democrats controlling the Legislature over the years, perhaps concerned about Republican governors, put in place a civil service system.
Today we find Republican Gov. Bill Haslam ready to get rid of that system.
The flap in Mississippi over pardons granted by outgoing Gov. Haley Barbour prompts Keel Hunt to reminisce in a Tennessean piece about the “cash for clemency” in Tennessee at the end of Gov. Ray Blanton’s tenure. It starts like this: An ugly uproar in Mississippi last week — over the surprise pardoning of 200-plus convicts by departing Gov. Haley Barbour — is stirring some deep echoes in Tennessee.
Convicts suddenly set free. Secrecy. Mystery. Outrage.
It should all remind Tennesseans of a dark night in our own history — 33 years ago tonight, in fact — when another governor made national headlines of the worst kind.
On Jan. 15, 1979, Gov. Ray Blanton issued 52 executive clemencies in a late-evening meeting at his State Capitol office. By the next day, news of what he had done had touched off a bonfire of public outrage.
Less than 48 hours after his extraordinary signing spree, Blanton was out of office, stripped of his power by a bipartisan “coup” that was unprecedented in American history.
Barbour’s action this week has not been fully explained. He said most of those he pardoned had served their prison time, but Mississippi’s attorney general has challenged the action, and a judge has stopped 21 of the releases.
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Knoxville’s top tourism official received more than $400,000 in compensation, but board members say she has earned the lucrative pay.
In the fiscal year that ended in June 2010, Gloria Ray received $405,583 as president and CEO of the Knoxville Tourism and Sports Corp. WBIR-TV in Knoxville first reported her compensation last week and that she made more than executives at similar organizations in other Tennessee cities.
According to IRS documents obtained by The Knoxville News Sentinel, Ray’s compensation included a base salary of $206,040 and bonus and incentive compensation of $171,396 (http://bit.ly/xOGz9D ). Ray also said that she uses a car provided by a local Toyota dealership.
That year, the organization spent nearly 62 percent of its total expenses on employee compensation.