MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen of Tennessee says he’s “stunned and dismayed” to learn that DNA tests revealed he is not the father of a woman he thought was his daughter.
Cohen issued a statement Thursday after CNN reported that DNA tests showed Victoria Brink isn’t his daughter.
In February, after Twitter messages he sent to the 24-year-old Texas woman during the president’s State of the Union address received media attention, Cohen revealed that he was Brink’s father. He said he learned about the relationship three years ago and was overjoyed.
In Thursday’s statement, he said he still loves Brink and hopes to remain in her life.
Cohen says he was “stunned and dismayed when DNA tests disproved what Victoria and I believed about our relationship.”
After a conversation with Sen. Stacey Campfield, District Attorney General Randy Nichols said Wednesday he is asking the TBI to proceed with an investigation into whether state anti-harassment laws were violated by automated calls to voters asking their opinion of the senator.
Campfield told Nichols, according to interviews with both men, that he believes the calls were intended to make people mad at him and that a possible source of the calls was Ben Farmer, who owns Cyragon LLC, a political consulting company that has been paid $7,000 by the campaign of Richard Briggs, an announced opponent to Campfield in the 2014 Republican primary.
Briggs said he had nothing to do with the “robo poll” made late last month. Farmer has acted as a consultant to his campaign, he said.
Nichols said that preliminary inquires left it apparent that some people receiving the calls “felt they were harassed” and “we’re going to go a little deeper into it to see if we can determine who caused the calls to be made.”
Some people reported receiving repeated call backs – as many as 37 – and Campfield contends the calls appeared programmed to keep calling back the same number until the respondent gave an unfavorable opinion of Campfield.
Shelby County Commissioner Steve Mulroy said Thursday that he thought he might help a half dozen people by donating a kidney to any stranger who could use it on April 30, reports the Commercial Appeal. But the chain of kidney recipients that Mulroy’s donation in Memphis triggered stretched much further and much faster than anyone could have hoped.
The chain reaction ended on Wednesday with 28 people across the country receiving kidneys from 28 donors in the five week’s since Mulroy volunteered his kidney at the Methodist University Hospital Transplant Institute in Memphis, operated in partnership with the University of Tennessee.
Known as “Chain 221” at the New York-based National Kidney Registry, Mulroy’s was the second-largest chain, only shorter than a 30-recipient string made between August and December 2011, according to the national registry.
“I’m just so gratified that I’ve been able to help so many people in such a dramatic way,” said Mulroy, 49, a University of Memphis law professor.”I had originally hoped that I might help a half of a dozen people, but to know that the chain has grown to 28 — 10 of whom were chronic, desperate people who would not otherwise have received kidneys, I’m must overjoyed.”
The state is outsourcing the management of its portfolio of its office properties, a move that will require about 125 employees to apply for jobs with the vendor taking over that work, reports The Tennessean. Officials expect to save roughly $50 million over the next five years from Chicago-based real estate services firm Jones Lang LaSalle taking over facilities management for 10.5 million square feet of state-owned and leased office properties statewide starting July 1.
Under a previous contract, Jones Lang LaSalle conducted an assessment of 33 major state properties that led to the recommendation that the state should reduce its footprint to 1.4 million square feet by the second quarter next year.
That will come from a combination of moving some employees to space in underutilized state-owned buildings and completely leaving state-owned properties deemed as too costly to maintain and operate.
“We’re having an expert handle the facilities management for us,” said Steve Cates, the state’s General Services commissioner, who in addition to the $50 million in savings sees Tennessee avoiding $25 million in one-time costs, plus $3 million annually, by not having to purchase and maintain the necessary technology and equipment, as well as set up a call center.
…Under the five-year contract, Jones Lang would be paid a management fee of up to $5 million a year. The company also will continue to help General Services with business
analysis to determine whether to spend on buildings and capital projects across the state.
The affected state employees were informed last month the state would no longer be employing people in job categories such as facilities administrators, facilities managers and building maintenance workers. They’re eligible for interviews for positions available under the new operating model, said Peter Uber, a Jones Lang managing director.
In a Phil Williams report, WTVF-TV is raising questions about the Haslam administration’s contract with Enterprise Rent-a-Car as a state motor pool. “This is not good business,” said Rep. Mark Pody, R-Lebanon, who sits on the legislature’s Fiscal Review Committee, after seeing the documents that we uncovered.
…(D)uring his first two years in office, Haslam’s administration has been quietly taking jobs from state employees and turning them over to big business. It’s an effort that’s been spearheaded by Haslam’s General Services Commissioner, Brentwood developer Steve Cates.
…In the case of the motor pool, Haslam’s Department of General Services decided in late 2011 to outsource the program to Enterprise and the car-sharing program that it calls WeCar.
The major push for that contract began about that same time that Cates hired former Enterprise executive Kathleen Hansen to head the department’s motor vehicle management division.
In fact, NewsChannel 5 Investigates discovered, the Haslam administration made a conscious decision not to put the state’s business up for bids, citing the “difficulty” of going through that process.
“The rental of cars has not been solicited by the Purchasing Division in the past; therefore it does not have experience in developing the specifications,” a justification memo said.
That notion “does not hold one drop of water for me,” Pody said.
…General Services officials justified the Enterprise deal in a memo, saying it would “piggy-back” on the “University of Tennessee’s WeCar” program — which had been put up for bids.
But, in a statement to NewsChannel 5 Investigates, said: “The University of Tennessee does not have a WeCar program.”
UT’s statement “causes me a great deal of concern,” Pody said.
Instead, our NewsChannel 5 investigation discovered, UT’s contract with Enterprise was just for a rental discount program for university employees and alumni who were traveling.
UT never outsourced its own motor pool.
And only one other company even bothered to submit a bid for the university’s business.
…”As a business man, if one of my managers came in and had done this with my money, I probably would have fired them,” Pody added.
…NewsChannel 5 Investigates went online looking for discount codes, then trying to reserve a car.
We found a mid-size car for $26 a day; the state’s price: $31. Our weekly rate: $148. The state’s: $184.
Compared to other states, Oklahoma has a deal with Enterprise to get the same car for less than $160 a week.
And even though WeCar boasts that it offers great rates for quick trips, Tennessee’s contract has no such deal.
The same car in other states is less than $10 for an hour. Tennessee pays the full daily rate — $31 — three times as much.
“There is something bad wrong,” Pody said. “If I can rent it cheaper as an individual or as one car, compared to the state renting a hundred a day, there has to be something wrong somewhere.”
When state employees need a car, they can go to an Enterprise location — or they can come to a state WeCar lot, like one located in the shadow of the state Capitol.
But our investigation discovered, under the Haslam administration’s deal with Enterprise, the company gets paid for just leaving cars there, waiting to be rented.
During the last 12 months for which bills are available, state employees actually used almost $450,000 worth of WeCar services. But Tennessee paid Enterprise $739,000.
…(General Services officials) argued that one of the big advantages of this contract is that the state can get a rebate of as much as 8 percent — money that comes back to taxpayers. The question, critics told us, is whether the savings have been even more if the contract had been put up for bids.
An excerpt from the Chattanooga Times-Free Press story on the death of “Toby” McKenzie, who was once a multi-millionare thanks to the payday loan business — and while enjoying that status was often a generous donor to politicians and an employer of lobbyists at the Legislature: A basketball arena at UTC was named for him. Millions of his dollars went to local schools, charities, ball fields and individuals.
Steve “Toby” McKenzie, a Cleveland, Tenn., native who grew up poor, built a fortune pioneering the national check cashing and pay-day loan industry in the early 1990s. He invested millions in more than a hundred businesses and real estate speculations and then lost almost everything during the economic recession.
More than a year before McKenzie died Thursday from unknown causes, he pleaded with his hometown to help him fight an involuntary bankruptcy that he said left him penniless, unable even to afford needed medications.
He was 59 years old when he died in a Chattanooga hospital. He is survived by his wife, Rebecca McKenzie, his three children and two stepdaughters.
“Toby left a legacy of generous support for the community he loved,” said D. Gary Davis, Bradley County mayor. “He was a big supporter of education. … My thoughts and prayers are with his family. Toby will be missed.”
McKenzie’s fall from grace became a public saga.
In 2008, when his bankruptcy began, he was ordered by the court to make $11.5 million in lease payments on defaulted properties.
The next year he was at risk of losing his two homes, each worth more than half a million dollars, and his personal possessions were liquidated. In total, he owed more than $200 million to 40 creditors nationwide, records showed.
The University of Tennessee removed his name from an athletics building because he didn’t follow through with a financial pledge. His ex-wife, Brenda Lawson, paid a portion and the building was named for her instead.
Congressman Steve Cohen says he tweeted and deleted a message to Cyndi Lauper this week intentionally to fool the press into promoting Memphis music, reports the Commercial Appeal. “There’s been a lot of discussion about my tweets — some questioning my ability to tweet,” Cohen, a Memphis Democrat, said from his desk in the Rayburn Building.
“The fact is I tweeted exactly what I wanted to tweet and I deleted exactly what I wanted to delete because, in this age, which I learned a couple of months ago … the best way to get a message out was to tweet and delete because the press will instantaneously assume the worst — something nefarious, something salacious — and jump on it.”
Cohen accidentally tweeted and deleted messages proclaiming his love for a 24-year-old Texas coed during the State of the Union in February and stories of the tweets went viral. Two days later, he revealed that she was a daughter he had never publicly identified.
The deleted tweets to Lauper were captured by Politiwoops, a program of the Sunlight Foundation, a good-government group that promotes transparency in government.
Cohen’s Twitter messages on Wednesday to Lauper mentioned her singing “Try a Little Tenderness” and said her performance at “In Performance at the White House: Memphis Soul” on Tuesday night was “hot.” The concert will be broadcast on PBS stations, including WKNO, on Tuesday night.
On Friday, Cohen explained: “It was a hot show, and Memphis music is hot. And Cyndi Lauper’s performance was hot. So was Justin Timberlake’s and Eddie Floyd’s ‘Knock on Wood’ and I wanted the world to know about it.”
Cohen said that if he put out a press release about the show, no one would see it.
“But I knew from my last episode, because of Politiwoops and the Sunshine (sic) Foundation having their area where they put deleted tweets, I knew the press would see it,” he said. “And I knew the press would also see the worst in it and publish it and, by doing so, they would publicize the Memphis music unlike anything I could have ever done.”
Congressman Steve Cohen is back in the headlines here over more deleted “tweets” from his Twitter account, reports the Commercial Appeal. The Memphis Democrat attended “In Performance at the White House: Memphis Soul” on Tuesday night at the White House, then tweeted one of the stars — Cyndi Lauper — Wednesday morning.
Lauper had sung “Try a Little Tenderness” accompanied by blues harmonica player Charlie Musselwhite at Tuesday’s concert to be broadcast on PBS next Tuesday.
“Cyndi, Wow what a night! See you next Tuesday and Try a little tenderness again! Wow! What a special night. Thanks Steve,” he wrote at 10:31 a.m., then evidently thought better of it and deleted it after 34 seconds.
But it was captured by the Politiwoops aggregation program of the Sunlight Foundation, a Washington good-government group that promotes openness and transparency. Its spokeswoman, Liz Bartolomeo, provided the texts and time stamps Thursday.
At 6:16 p.m. Wednesday, Cohen sent another tweet to @CyndiLauper: “great night, couldn’t believe how hot u were. see you again next Tuesday. try a little tenderness,” he wrote. Then he deleted it after 21 minutes.
The Washington Post’s Reliable Source blog Thursday let the world know about it with the headline: “Rep. Steve Cohen thinks Cyndi Lauper is ‘hot,’ but deletes tweet saying so.” Politico called the tweets “flirty.”
….Cohen did not respond to requests Thursday for comment.
State Elections Coordinator Mark Goins’ office said Monday that a review of voter registration lists and the state Department of Safety and Homeland Security’s database found just 14 “potential non-citizens” on Davidson County’s voter rolls, reports The Tennessean.
Just one of those 14 people had ever voted, and that was sometime before 2012, said Blake Fontenay, a spokesman for the Tennessee Division of Elections.
The state’s finding contradicts the estimate put forth last month by Steve Abernathy, a Republican who will soon give up his seat on the Davidson County Election Commission. At the commission’s March 21 meeting, Abernathy said there could be 3,000 to 10,000 non-citizens in the county who managed to register to vote at the Department of Safety through the so-called motor voter law.
At the same meeting, Abernathy joined the four other commissioners in voting to rescind his own plan to review the citizenship status of foreign-born voters who registered to vote after March 1. Metro attorneys said the plan could violate both the motor voter law and the 14th Amendment by creating two classes of voters and subjecting one group to greater scrutiny.
In an echo of state Senate action Wednesday, a House resolution has been filed saying that body intends to ask for the state investigative file into 10th Judicial District Attorney Steve Bebb’s office, reports the Chattanooga TFP. Rep. Tony Shipley, R-Kingsport, filed HR 60, which states the intent of the House Criminal Justice Committee to review results of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation’s four-month investigation. The Senate passed a similar resolution Wednesday.
The lawmakers’ action this week follows the release last week of Tennessee Attorney General Robert Cooper’s long-awaited report on the TBI investigation he commissioned in August.
The TBI and comptroller’s office probed allegations raised in a Chattanooga Times Free Press series and elsewhere of financial and prosecutorial misconduct in Bebb’s office, among other issues. Cooper’s report found that Bebb used poor judgment and mismanaged the office but stated that there were no prosecutable criminal charges against him.
Shipley, who sits on the House Criminal Justice Committee, said in a statement Wednesday that the General Assembly has oversight authority over district attorneys general.
“Therefore we have responsibility to make a fully informed decision and determine if further action by this body is warranted,” Shipley said.
The chairman of the Criminal Justice Committee is Cleveland Republican Eric Watson.
In a statement through Shipley’s office Thursday, Watson recused himself from the resolution and review.
“Rep. Watson is part of the law enforcement community in the affected judicial district. He has therefore removed himself from the process,” according to the statement.
House lawmakers didn’t vote on the resolution Thursday. It could come up next week.