Sen. Lamar Alexander, who has become the top Republican on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, has added staffers to help him with committee work who have ties to former U.S. Sen. Fred Thompson and Bill Frist of Tennessee.
More from Georgianna Vines: David Cleary, his legislative director, also will be the Republican staff director. Cleary’s background includes serving on the staff of the U.S. House’s Committee on Education and the Workforce under then-Chairman John Boehner, now House speaker.
Mary Sumpter Lapinski, Alexander’s health policy adviser, will serve as health policy director for Republicans on HELP. She was health legislative assistant to Frist from 1999-2001 and a legislative aide to former U.S. Rep. Van Hilleary, R-Tenn., when he represented the 4th Congressional District.
Peter Oppenheim will serve as education policy director and committee counsel. He has been Alexander’s legislative counsel and is a former research assistant to former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga.
Lindsey Ward Seidman will serve as senior policy adviser. Seidman has worked for Alexander since his first Senate campaign in 2002 and was policy director in his 2008 Senate campaign.
Michael Merrell will serve as chief counsel. He previously was on the Senate Rules Committee, where he advised Republicans on Senate rules and procedure, election administration and campaign finance. He previously worked for former U.S. Sen. Bob Bennett, R-Utah.
Jim Jeffries will continue to serve as communications director, overseeing press in Alexander’s Senate office and at the HELP committee. Liz Wolgemuth will move from the Senate office to serve as Republican press secretary for the HELP committee. Brian Reisinger, new to the office, will serve as press secretary in Alexander’s office.
In Alexander’s Senate office, Allison Martin will serve as deputy legislative director after serving as projects manager and legislative counsel for nearly two years. She previously worked for Thompson and Frist.
News release from Administrative Office of the Courts:
Nashville, Tenn. – In a unanimous opinion, the Tennessee Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals and reinstated the trial court’s judgment awarding a Memphis teacher back pay and damages after the board failed to comply with the Teacher Tenure Act when it dismissed her.
Saundra Thompson, a tenured teacher in the Memphis City Schools, was terminated by the school board in April 2007 for failing to return to work after taking extended sick time. The board did not provide written charges or an opportunity for a hearing prior to the termination.
Ms. Thompson filed suit alleging violation of the Tenure Act and right to due process guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment to the United State Constitution. She was granted summary judgment and awarded reinstatement, back pay, damages and legal fees of $325,419. On appeal by the school board, the Court of Appeals remanded the case after it determined a factual dispute existed as to whether Ms. Thompson requested more sick leave prior to her termination, or whether she forfeited her tenure by making no such request.
The Supreme Court, in its holding today, reverses the Court of Appeals decision and affirms the trial court’s summary judgment, determining that, although a tenured teacher’s failure to return from sick leave may constitute cause for termination, there is no statute authorizing a board of education to deem it a constructive resignation or a forfeiture of tenure. The Court notes that by dismissing Ms. Thompson without providing her with written charges or an opportunity for a hearing, the defendant board of education violated her rights under the Tennessee Teacher Tenure Act and her constitutional right to due process of law.
To read the Saundra Thompson v. Memphis City Schools Board of Education opinion, authored by Justice Cornelia A. Clark, visit the opinions sections of TNCourts.gov.
Six days after Republican state senate candidate John Stevens admitted ripping up an unconscious widow’s last will, he released a statement Monday saying he was acting “on her wishes and her wishes alone.”
Further from the Commercial Appeal: Stevens’ Democratic opponent in District 24, Brad Thompson, last week circulated court filings involving the death and the estate of Huntingdon resident Ruth Keras. They included indications Stevens created a revocable trust on behalf of Keras, whose assets after her death were to be divided equally between Keras’ brother and Peggy Wilkes of Carroll County.
The will Stevens ripped up named St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital as a major beneficiary and hadn’t mentioned Wilkes.
…In his statement Monday, Stevens said the Thompson campaign’s suggestion of wrongdoing on his part “is a lie by a desperate campaign that is down double-digits. It is what you expect from an Obama-Pelosi Democrat.”
Stevens said Keras hired him in Huntingdon and “was fully competent … I was one of the last people Ruth met with. I carried out her wishes in the last days of her life. I acted on her wishes and her wishes alone.”
“Ruth wanted her will changed — for the third time,” the statement continues. “After she lost consciousness, the only legal option left open to me was to tear up her second will in her presence — as required by law … My sole purpose in this matter was to carry out Ruth’s wishes as expressed to me in the hospital in Huntingdon.
“The idea that Brad Thompson would cruelly use this for political gain is disgusting,” he added. “I carried out my duty as a lawyer.”
The statement does not address why Keras wanted St. Jude and Youth Town jettisoned as beneficiaries days before her death. St. Jude’s lawyers, in their lawsuit, maintained the change in beneficiaries was contrary Keras’ written instructions in 2002 and 2003, and contrary to her late husband’s wishes.
The matter was settled out of court and the terms remain confidential. Stevens was not a party in the legal dispute, but his affidavit was made part of the court record.
In response to Stevens’ statement, Thompson’s campaign manager, Carol Andrews, released a statement: “John Stevens knows he has no defense for preying upon a dying, elderly woman who for many years had simply wanted to leave her estate to sick and troubled children,” she said. “If he didn’t do anything wrong, then why did he sign an official affidavit stating that he did?”
The state Democratic party is emailing media copies of a story by West Tennessee radio station WCMT on allegations about Republican state Senate candidate John Stevens, raised by his Democratic opponent, Brad Thompson. It starts thusly:
MARTIN – Carol Andrews, Campaign Manager for District 24 State Senate Candidate Brad Thompson, today released official court documents showing that candidate John Stevens admitted to an unethical and unlawful act involving interference with the wishes of a dying woman to leave her estate to helping sick and troubled children.
In 2010, Stevens signed an official affidavit admitting to his wrongdoing. Andrews made the following statement and provided background materials on the story:
“Some disturbing news has come to my attention regarding our opponent in this race. This is an incredible story and one that voters deserve to know. It illustrates that John Stevens is a man who simply cannot be trusted.
“The story I am relating is all readily available in the Circuit and Chancery Court Clerks’ offices in the Carroll County Courthouse just across the street from John Stevens’ law office.
Official court documents show that John Stevens broke Tennessee law by interfering with a dying woman’s wish to leave her estate to St. Jude’s Children Hospital – to a hospital known around the world for caring for children with cancer — and Youth Town of Tennessee, a center here in West Tennessee that helps troubled youth.
“According to official court documents, John Stevens lied to nurses in a Jackson hospital to gain access to the dying woman’s bedside to tear up her will.
“Her name was Ruth Karas.
“Mrs. Karas was in a coma. John Stevens had already drawn up other papers putting other people in control of the woman’s estate.
“Mrs. Karas died a day after John Stevens tore up her will.
“John Stevens’ acts were unethical and according to the Tennessee Code Annotated, a felony.
“On his web site, John Stevens claims that “he is an attorney in private practice helping families and farmers with elder law and estate planning,” yet he helped prey upon an elderly woman as she lay dying.
“John Stevens later signed an official affidavit admitting that he committed this act. He agreed with a nurse’s deposition that he tore up the will of an elderly woman as she lay dying in a coma. John Stevens had even been so craven as to ask this nurse to video his act on his telephone.
“John Stevens was not the dying woman’s attorney and had not previously been involved in her will.
“According to Tennessee Code Annotated, Stevens’ act is against the law. It is most certainly unethical and heinous to interfere with a dying woman’s wish to leave her estate to an interest to help children with cancer.
“Voters deserve to know this about John Stevens. This shows that he certainly cannot be trusted.”
Tennessee is being ignored, as usual, in the presidential campaign this year – except, of course, for fundraising – and that is prompting a new round of talk about abolishing the electoral college system. Andy Sher rounds up some commentary on the topic. You can count former Democratic Vice President Al Gore of Tennessee and former U.S. Sen. Fred Thompson, a Tennessee Republican, among the critics.
Both say the situation should end in which campaigns are forced to follow Electoral College strategies where the outcome trumps the national popular vote.
…But defenders of the Electoral College say no changes are needed. They argue mega-states like California and New York would dominate the popular vote and leave states like Tennessee an afterthought.
“The presidential election would basically be concentrated in the coastal cities, Los Angeles and New York,” Tennessee Republican Party Chairman Chris Devaney said. “And everyone else would be left behind. It would open it up more to fraud and electoral abuse.”
…Tennessee Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, the Republican state Senate speaker, likewise voiced support for the current system.
“We have a long-standing, time-tested mechanism for choosing our president,” Ramsey said. “This process in rooted in a tradition that protects the interests of both small as well as large states. A National Popular Vote process that would either abolish or neuter the electoral college would eviscerate that delicate balance our founders strove to achieve.”
Brad Thompson, a longtime community advocate for northwest Tennessee, formally announced his candidacy for State Senate District 24 Friday citing his career of strengthening the area’s infrastructure and growing the local economy, reports the Union City Messenger. The district includes Benton, Carroll, Gibson, Henry, Obion and Weakley counties. (He is the Democrat running in the seat vacated by Democratic Sen. Roy Herron.)
A civic leader, farmer, educator and Bible class teacher, Thompson said he will focus on results for working families, and he’ll work across party lines to ensure that each county in the district has the best opportunity for jobs growth.
“People have seen enough partisan bickering,” Thompson said. “I’ll put politics aside to make progress on what really matters — getting people back to work and making sure our children can get a high-quality education so they can compete for the jobs of the future.”
Thompson said he will consider a good idea from anyone “because good ideas are just that — good ideas — and they don’t come with a party label.”
Thompson also emphasized the importance of effective government with a high priority on personal service for citizens.
…A native of Obion County, Thompson served for many years as a top aide to Congressman John Tanner…Thompson serves as director of Community Development for the City of Martin.
State Republican fundraiser B.C. “Scooter” Clippard appears set to run in a GOP state Senate primary, but Andy Sher reports that an email he recently sent is raising a few eyebrows with his mention of state Republican bigwigs supporting his bid. “Fred Thompson — Bill Frist — Lamar — Corker — Beth and Ron all plan on doing events for me,” Clippard enthuses in the email, which saw wide distribution.
Clippard served as national fundraising chairman in former U.S. Sen. Fred Thompson’s unsuccessful 2008 GOP presidential bid and in 2010 and also was state Republican Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey’s unsuccessful GOP primary bid for governor.
But two of the politicians cited say they’re steering clear of the GOP primary in which Steve Dickerson and Charles Williamson have already announced.
“It has been our custom not to be involved in open state legislative primaries, and we have no plans to change that practice,” said Todd Womack, chief of staff to U.S. Senator Bob Corker, R-Tenn., in an email.
U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., was quoted in the Nashville Post saying, “Scooter Clippard has been a good friend for a long time. He called to tell me he planned to run and I told him I would be happy to do an event for him after the primary.”
Fred Thompson, who made an unsuccessful bid for the Republican presidential nomination during the 2008 election cycle, endorsed Newt Gingrich in this year’s GOP primary race on Monday night.
More from Huffington Post: Thompson declared his support for the former House Speaker during an appearance on Sean Hannity’s Fox News program. The announcement came as Gingrich — along with Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum and Ron Paul — were participating in a debate in Florida.
“I have come to the growing realization that Newt Gingrich is the guy who can articulate what America is all about,” Thompson said.
Thompson served as a Republican U.S. senator from Tennessee from 1994 through 2003. He has also held acting roles on NBC’s TV show “Law & Order” and a number of action movies.
After failing to gain traction in early primary states in 2008, Thompson abandoned his presidential campaign and later threw his support behind eventual nominee John McCain.
Nashville lobbyist Tony Thompson, declared a “fresh face” by a new Memphis client, has also kept Knoxville as a client with a fresh face in the mayor’s office.
The Knoxville City Council approved a new annual contract with Thompson for lobbying the Legislature at the same fee he has received for the past 11 years, $50,000.
Thompson’s contract came with the approval of Mayor Madeline Rogero. She will be the third Knoxville mayor to approve contracting with Thompson. He began under former Mayor Victor Ashe 15 years ago with a salary of $36,000 per year and served at the $50,000 rate under former Mayor Bill Haslam, now governor.
The Memphis-Shelby County unified school system has hired Nashville-based lobbyist Tony Thompson to monitor legislative activity during the upcoming session of the General Assembly, reports the Commercial Appeal. The Dec. 15 contract with Thompson for $75,000 was done administratively and did not come before the 23-member unified board for consideration. The one-year agreement was signed by Thomas, MCS Supt. Kriner Cash and SCS Supt. John Aitken. That was done per the Shelby County Schools policy, where such matters can be handled administratively.
The former Memphis City Schools required such arrangements, if over $50,000, to come to the school board for review. The handling of such contracts has been a point of discussion during the merger of the two systems.
Billy Orgel, chairman of the unified board, confirmed the hiring of Thompson, son of actor and former senator Fred Thompson.
“He will be our eyes and ears on the ground in Nashville,” Orgel said. “Quite frankly, I think it is a great thing because we need to engage our legislators — not just from Shelby County, but from across the state — and let them know about the good things going on over here in Shelby County. “I think a fresh face — Tony Thompson — will be very helpful to us.”