Tag Archives: wtvf

Emails indicate Ingram doing some political work on Haslam payroll

WTVF-TV continues a review of Haslam administration emails with a report on indications that Tom Ingram was consulting on political campaign matters while paid personally by the governor. If so, that could mean disclosure of the payments is required under state law as the equivalent of campaign self-financing… but the governor has refused to disclose the amount of his personal payments to Ingram.
From Ben Hall’s report:
State e-mails, obtained by NewsChannel 5 Investigates, raise new questions about whether Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam broke campaign finance laws by paying lobbyist Tom Ingram out of his own pocket.
The emails reveal Ingram participated in campaign-related planning events while he was on the governor’s private payroll.
…The governor insisted that there’s nothing wrong with having lobbyist and consultant Tom Ingram on his private payroll. He said he hired Ingram to help with statewide “organizational” issues.
“It’s not fair to have the state pay Tom — and he wasn’t doing political work where it should be campaign,” Haslam said last month.
But the new emails reveal Ingram continued to do campaign work, planning for the governor’s next election, while he was on the governor’s private payroll.
In October of 2012, the governor’s chief of staff, Mark Cate, e-mailed Ingram about a “2014 planning retreat.” Cate asked Ingram, as well as Haslam’s campaign finance director and key office staff, to set aside eight hours over two days for the retreat.
Later, Ingram suggested having the retreat at the Loews Vanderbilt Hotel because he preferred “to get away from government space.”
Haslam’s office confirmed the retreat was campaign related about his reelection…. But even though Ingram was receiving regular monthly retainer payments, the governor’s office now says Ingram was not paid for the time he attended the campaign retreat.
Haslam’s office did not provide details of the campaign retreat, but said it only lasted a couple of hours.
…Other emails reveal that in a September 2012 discussion with the subject line “planning session,” Ingram told Mark Cate we “also needs [sic] to discuss super PAC.” Haslam’s office said Cate did not know what the “Super PAC” reference meant. (Note: Haslam has given money to Karl Rove’s ‘Super PAC,’ HERE)
…A spokesman for the governor said that Haslam started paying Ingram out of his campaign account on July 1. He said that was the plan all along as Haslam’s reelection grew closer and it had nothing to do with outside pressure.
However, the governor has no plans to amend past disclosures to reveal what he has paid Ingram.

Haslam, Cate say no favoritism shown toward lobbyist Ingram

Gov. Bill Haslam and his chief of staff, Mark Cate, said Tuesday they show no favoritism toward Tom Ingram’s lobbying clients, though Cate’s emails indicate considerable friendly contact with Ingram and an associate.
Several of the emails obtained by WTVF-TV involved HR Comp Employee Leasing, a Knox County firm that had problems with the state Department of Insurance and retained The Ingram Group’s lobbying and consultant services. The firm, owned and operated by Andrea Ball of Powell, at one point was found to be operating without a state license and agreed to pay $10,000 in a consent order.
In one email, Ingram describes the company’s situation as “a very troubling case.” In another, Marcille Durham, president of the Ingram Group, says Andrea Ball would like to meet with him about departmental action “driving her out of business” and Cate replies that he is “optimistic we can find a resolution.”
Both Cate and Ball said in interviews Tuesday that they had never met.
Cate said “I don’t really see any point” in the TV report on his email since he was merely doing his job of dealing with people who have issues with one part of state government or another.

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Haslam: Public Interest His Only Concern in Outsourcing

Gov. Bill Haslam fielded several questions about state government outsourcing contracts Monday, insisting that a few mistakes might have occurred but that the public’s interest was his only motivation.
From WTVF’s report:
Surrounded by reporters, the governor was emphatic about his administration decision to outsource large chunks of state government — the most recent being a $330 million contract to manage all state buildings.
“This is a contract that’s going to save the state a hundred million dollars over the next years,” Haslam said.
That contract went to Jones Lang Lasalle — a company that candidate Bill Haslam listed among his investments.
“Is there any sense in which you stand to gain personally from that contract?” NewsChannel 5 Investigates asked.
“Absolutely zero,” the governor answered.
…The governor did acknowledge that a meeting with JLL officials at the Governor’s Residence in April 2012 was about more than just the $1 million consulting contract they had at the time to study the condition of the state’s buildings.
After that meeting, the administration began pushing a string of amendments to extend the JLL contract — without any bidding.
“Were you involved in those conversations about those extensions?” NewsChannel 5 Investigates asked.
“No,” the governor said.
“We had the dinner because at this point in time we were thinking about them obviously managing a big chunk of the state’s business, and I wanted to have a face-to-face conversation just like I was if I going out to hire an individual to do something. To me, there’s nothing extraordinary about that at all.”
But when the facilities management contract was put up for bids, two of the three members of the selection committee came from the governor’s own staff.
“Did you interview any of their competitors?” we asked.
“I didn’t,” the governor admitted, “because I wasn’t part of the selection process.”
Still, Haslam insisted that he believes taxpayers will be the winners.
“Look, anytime you make a big change in state government, does everything in the process go about properly? No. This is new territory we’re in. There’s literally no other states who have done what we’ve done.”


See also the Commercial Appeal, HERE

THDA Spending on Employees ‘Having Fun’ Faulted

The Tennessee Housing Development Agency, created to help in financing home for low and modest income Tennesseans, also spends “tens of thousands of dollars having fun,” according to WTVF-TV’s Phil Williams. But it’s called “employee development.”
So, this past summer, the entire office took off to go to Dave & Busters.
In addition to a full-course, lunch buffet, each employee also got $40 for video games or for bowling.
The total cost: $9,939.
“The people who work in accounting get to know the people who work in tax credits,” Smith explained. “The people who work in housing management get to know the people in public affairs.”
“Can they not get to know each other here at the office?” NewsChannel 5 Investigates asked.
“Yes — it’s a little crowded here,” she answered.
To celebrate Fellman’s 50th birthday, THDA bought enough balloons to fill up the boss’ office. They hired a balloon artist, as well as a caterer to serve up banana pudding.
The price tag: $1,300.
For administrative professionals day, the agency brought in a stretch limo just to take its secretaries out to lunch.
The limo by itself: $641.

Emails Show Clerk Charged “Fee” for Marriages (instead of ‘gratuity’)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — After an investigation by WTVF-TV showed the Davidson County Clerk was taking $40 from couples to perform marriages, he defended himself by call the money a “gratuity.” But in emails obtained by the station under the state’s open records law, Clerk John Arriola himself refers to the money as a “fee” (http://bit.ly/qGtE7q ).
In one exchange, a bride-to-be inquires about getting married at the clerk’s office.
“I have saved the date and time. The ceremony fee is $40,” Arriola responds.
A message for Arriola from The Associated Press on Tuesday was not immediately returned.
Under Tennessee’s official misconduct law, it is a felony for public officials to use their offices for personal gain.
The county clerk’s office is under investigation by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and state auditors, although no charges have been filed.

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Davidson County Clerk’s Wedding ‘Gratuity’ Now Going to Charity

Davidson County Clerk John Arriola will no longer pocket a $40 “gratuity” he has been collecting from people to oversee weddings, says The Tennessean.
Arriola, anticipating that a TV station was going to broadcast a story about his office’s policy on marriage ceremonies, said Tuesday he would instead donate the money to charity. He released a statement saying it had been his practice to “accept a modest gratuity of $40” for officiating marriage ceremonies. He said he has paid taxes on those gratuities.
Arriola said he will continue to officiate weddings and accept the gratuity, which will go toward scholarships or some other charity.
Here’s an excerpt from the referenced story by WTVF’s Phil Williams:
But for the Davidson County clerk, it’s also become big business. His clerks — all Metro employees — charge $40 up front for the ceremony.
However, instead of depositing the money into Metro accounts, Arriola himself pockets the cash.
Arriola: “There is what state law refers to as a gratuity. That is a part of it.”
NC5 Investigates: “A gratuity is something I give voluntarily — a tip. This is a fee that you charge.”
Arriola: “No, I can have a gratuity.”
But several newly married couples said they were led to believe that the fee was mandatory.
“It’s $40, yes,” one bride insisted.
And we listened as another couple asked one of Arriola’s employees, “How much is the marriage part?”
“It’s $40,” the clerk said.
And another employee told our undercover reporter the same thing about Arriola’s ceremonies.
“He does them on Friday mornings from 8:30 until 11. He charges $40 cash,” she explained.