ethics

4 former lawmakers among 6 finalists to lead ethics and campaign finance panel

The Bureau of Ethics and Campaign Finance has whittled down the applications to succeed retiring Executive Director Drew Rawlins from 43 to six. The finalists include four former lawmakers, a former judge, and a current staffer.

The finalists are scheduled to be interviewed over the course of three weeks starting on July 8. Here’s who made the cut:

  • Former Rep. Jerome Cochran, a Republican who lost to former House Speaker Kent Williams (I-Elizabethton) three times in as as many election cycles. Cochran is now an administrative law judge.
  • Former Rep. Mark Goins, a Republican who ran twice for the Senate — losing to former Democratic Sen. Tommy Kilby (D-Wartburg) — after being drawn out of his House seat in redistricting. Goins is the state election coordinator under Secretary of State Tre Hargett.
  • Former Rep. Judd Matheny, who came in third in a bid for the Republican nomination in his bid for 6th Congressional District seat last year.
  • Former Rep. Kim McMillan, the former House Democratic leader who lost her re-election bid as Clarksville mayor to former Rep. Joe Pitts.
  • Jay Moeck, the current audit director of the bureau.
  • Former Nashville Chancellor Bill Young, a onetime counsel for Blue Cross General Counsel and twice a top attorney for the state Attorney General’s Office.

The selection will be made by the members of the Ethics Commission and the Registry of Election Finance. Both panels are evenly divided along party lines. As the only Democratic finalist, McMillan appears to have an advantage if the Republicans split the vote. Of course, Republicans could coalesce behind a single finalist, at which point there could be an impasse.

Report: Democratic Rep. Staples faces sexual misconduct investigation

Democratic state Rep. Rick Staples of Knoxville is the subject of an investigation into sexual misconduct allegations, according to The Tennesseans’ Joel Ebert and Natalie Allison.

A woman making the allegations tells the newspaper the lawmaker touched her inappropriately on a recent visit to the state Capitol complex. She says Staples made comments about her appearance before grabbing her and held on to her waist while standing behind her.

The woman reported the details of the encounter to House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Stewart of Nashville, but says she had to follow up with his office before receiving a reply. Stewart and Staples declined to comment to the Tennessean.

Staples could face disciplinary action including removal from the House Ethics Committee, to which he was appointed by House Speaker Glen Casada (R-Franklin) in January.

The woman bringing the allegations involved in state Democratic politics and says Staples had previously made inappropriate comments.

“My first day doing anything in politics, one of the very first things I heard was not to be alone in a room with Rick,” she told the newspaper.

Read the full report here.

More executive orders from Gov. Lee on ethics, transparency, and non-discrimination

Bill Lee is inaugurated as Tennessee’s 50th governor on Jan. 19, 2018. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Gov. Bill Lee has issued three more executive orders. Here’s the full release:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Today, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee issued three executive orders to underscore and improve state government’s approach to ethics, transparency and non-discrimination practices.

“Earlier this week, I signed my first executive order to address issues facing our rural communities, and the three orders I signed today reflect firm expectations for how state government conducts business,” said Lee. “I believe in limited and accountable government, which is why I have emphasized my administration’s approach to ethics, transparency and non-discrimination in hiring.”

Executive Order 2 fortifies the ethics policy applied to the governor, members of the governor’s staff, members of the governor’s cabinet and other executive branch employees. It expands the scope of employees required to file ethical disclosures and is designed to ensure that senior members of all departments and all employees regularly interacting with the General Assembly must file such disclosures.

Executive Order 3 mandates openness, transparency and accountability within the executive branch. Employees will be required to attend training within the next 120 days to ensure legal requirements relating to the following are met: open meetings, open records, and applicable ethics and disclosure rules. This order requires that training to happen on a specific timetable (within 120 days), while also mandating additional, recurring training.

Executive Order 4 directs the Commissioner of Human Resources to review all hiring and employment practices to ensure there is no discrimination based on race, color, national origin, age, sex, pregnancy, religion, creed, disability, veteran’s status, or any other category protected by state and federal law. The Department of Human Resources, in conjunction with the Department of Labor and Workforce Development, is directed to conduct training within 120 days to ensure the executive branch complies with this policy of non-discrimination and equal opportunity in hiring, firing, promoting and other management practices.

 

Black takes campaign trip on jet linked to company she helped in Congress and that helped her in fundraising

On a day of campaigning for governor last month, U.S. Rep. Diane Black flew from Chattanooga to Paris, Tenn., and back on a plane linked to Fitzgerald Glider Kits, reports The Tennessean. That’s the Crossville  company that received some media attention in February after getting an exemption with Black’s help from federal vehicle emission standards for the truck engines it makes —  and which has bundled $225,000 in donations to her gubernatorial campaign.

A Black spokesman says there’s nothing improper there; that she paid for the flight and it will be duly reported on her next campaign financial disclosure. The story says Black flew on the 2017 Embraer Phenom 300 twin-jet airplane from Chattanooga to West Tennessee on the morning of April 27 to attend the Paris Fish Fry, then used it to fly back to Chattanooga that evening to attend the Hamilton County Lincoln Day Dinner where she met with, among others, former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski.

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Former legislator loses current job after accessing confidential records for political smear

Former state Rep. Chad Faulkner (R-Luttrell) as resigned his position with the Loudon County Sheriff’s office after being confronted with evidence he accessed confidential records used as part of a political smear campaign against Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett’s congressional campaign, reports the News Sentinel.

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Investigators find ‘substantial reason’ to believe Duncan violated House rules with family spending

Congressional ethics investigators say they have found substantial reason to believe Rep. John J. Duncan Jr. improperly used thousands of campaign dollars on personal expenses for himself and his family, reports Michael Collins.

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Burchett accused of nepotism in hiring of stepson

A complaint to the state comptroller and anonymous emails to county commissioners accuse Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett of violating nepotism laws in the hiring of his stepson, a county laborer with a history of legal troubles, reports the News Sentinel. Burchett is currently running for the Republican nomination to the 2nd Congressional District seat.

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Tennessee Tech disavows study used in lobbying, financed by trucking company

The president of Tennessee Tech University has disavowed a study used to help justify the repeal of tighter federal emissions standards for a type of freight trucks, reports the Washington Post. He says that experts now question “the methodology and accuracy” of the industry-funded test.

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Duncan facing ethics investigation — apparently over campaign payments to family

The House Ethics Committee is investigating U.S. Rep. John J. “Jimmy” Duncan Jr. of Knoxville, though not giving a reason for the probe in a statement Tuesday. But there’s immediate speculation the investigation involves  payment of campaign funds to the congressman’s relatives – most notably his son, John J. Duncan III — that continued through into December of 2017 after media reporting on the matter in July. Duncan says he’s done nothing wrong.

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Ethics complaint filed against Burchett over $10K payment received in 2008

Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett, now running for the 2nd Congressional District seat, says he will file an amendment to a 2008 financial disclosure statement that has triggered filing of an ethics complaint against him, reports The Tennessean.

Melissa McCoy of Loudon County says she filed the complaint with the Tennessee Ethics Commission because Burchett failed to disclose a $10,000 payment from an electronics company while serving as a state senator. She says Burchett sponsored a bill that would benefit the company at the time he received the payment.

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