cabinet

The other shoe drops on Rogers, Goins ousters at Veterans Services

Veterans Services Commissioner Courtney Rogers attends the groundbreaking ceremony for the Bradley County Tennessee State Veterans’ Home on Aug. 21, 2019. (Image Credit: Tennessee Department of Veterans Services)

A state investigation into former Veterans Services Commissioner Courtney Rogers found the former Republican lawmaker had engaged in “frequent yelling and belittling employees, inappropriate comments made in public, and use of racial and homophobic stereotypes and slurs.”

Rogers and her deputy, former Rep. Tilman Goins, resigned late last month. Goins was alleged to have engaged in a romantic relationship with a subordinate at the agency.

On a visit to a military base, witnesses said Rogers described a specific race as “prostitutes who slept their way into the United States.” According to the investigation summary, Rogers “did not deny making the statement and did not recall in what context she would have made the comment.”

During a mediation at the department, Rogers is also alleged to have referred to the other party as “another black guy looking for a free ride.” She denied those comments, saying “she may have referred to the individual as ‘someone sticking it to the man.’”

Former Rep. Tilman Goins, the deputy commissioner of the Department of Veterans Services, speaks at a training conference on Nov. 18, 2019. (Image Credit: Tennessee Department of Veterans Services)

According a person who filed a complaint against Rogers, the commissioner yelled at her during a car ride in October 2019.

“I’m sick of your stupid mouth!” the staffer recalled Rogers shouting at her. “I’m going to quit and tell the governor it’s all your fault!”

Another person corroborated those events, but Rogers said she did not recall yelling.

Lee names DeBerry to Cabinet

Rep. John DeBerry.

Former Rep. John DeBerry, who lost his independent bid for re-election after being drummed out of the Democratic Party for his habit of voting with the GOP on issues like school vouchers and abortion, has been named to Republican Gov. Bill Lee’s Cabinet. The senior adviser position will pay $165,000 per year.

DeBerry’s reelection bid was notable for the former lawmaker’s decision not to touch a more than $192,000 balance in his campaign account to support the campaign. He ended up receiving just 23% of the vote compared with Democratic nominee Torrey Harris’ 77%.

Here’s the release from Lee’s office.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Today, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee announced that former member of the General Assembly Representative John DeBerry of Memphis will join his cabinet as a senior advisor.

“John DeBerry is a respected leader and man of faith who has served our state with integrity for decades as both a legislator and civil rights champion,” said Gov. Lee. “John has fought to protect life, provide better education options for Tennessee students, and to reform our criminal justice system and I’m honored to have his counsel within the Cabinet.”

DeBerry has represented the 90th House District of Tennessee since 1995. He is a graduate of Freed-Hardeman University and the University of Memphis and currently preaches at the Coleman Avenue Church of Christ in Memphis in addition to churches and organizations across the country.

“It’s been an honor to serve my constituents for the last 26 years,” said DeBerry. “I am proud of the work accomplished throughout my time with the Tennessee General Assembly and I look forward to serving Tennesseans in this statewide role.”

DeBerry will begin on Tuesday, December 1. In his role, DeBerry will serve on the governor’s Executive Leadership Team and his office will be in the Tennessee State Capitol. 

Lee names Mathews interim commissioner of Human Services Department

Gov. Bill Lee has named Tony Mathews as the interim commissioner of the state Human Services Department. He takes over from Danielle Barnes, who has left state government for the private sector.

“Tony Mathews has served the Department of Human Services well and I thank him for his willingness to take on this important role,” Lee said in a statement. “Human Services provides critical programs to Tennessee families in need and we’re committed to maintaining an excellent standard of customer service during this transition period.”

Mathews has served as the agency’s deputy commissioner and chief operating officer since May 2017. He previously worked for private health insurance companies Aetna and Cigna after stints with TennCare and the Department of Environment and Conservation.

McWhorter leaving Lee administration for higher education, private sector

Finance Commissioner Stuart McWhorter, right, and Deputy to the Governor Lang Wiseman confer before Gov. Bill Lee’s first State of the State address in Nashville on March 4, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Former Finance Commissioner Stuart McWhorter is leaving Gov. Bill Lee’s administration after overseeing the “unified command” for the state’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.

McWhorter will become a senior adviser to Clemson University, his alma mater. He will also return to the private sector. Butch Eley has taken over as finance commissioner.

Here’s what The Tennessee Journal wrote when McWhorter stepped down as finance commissioner in March:

McWhorter, the chairman of a healthcare venture capital firm who had served on the board of the Lee Co., was an early backer of Lee’s long-shot gubernatorial bid. He eventually served as the campaign’s finance chairman and was one of Lee’s first appointments following the 2018 election. The finance commissioner is traditionally the governor’s chief Cabinet officer, though McWhorter has appeared at his least comfortable when pressed by reporters about controversies ranging from school vouchers to the Nathan Bedford Forrest bust at the Capitol. He has been more content to focus on the budget planning elements of the job, in which he has presided over a wild roller-coaster ride from the days of overflowing tax coffers to having to cut about $1 billion of the upcoming spending plan to account for the expected economic fallout from the coronavirus.

Here’s the full release from the governor’s office:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Tennessee Governor Bill Lee announced next steps for the Unified-Command Group as Stuart McWhorter departs the administration at the end of May to go back to the private sector and to take on a senior advisory role at Clemson University.

“Stuart has been a tremendous asset to my administration, first as the commissioner of Finance and Administration, then in his role as director for our COVID-19 response through Unified-Command,” said Gov. Lee. “His ability to apply private-sector expertise to public-sector challenges has served our state well and I wish him the best in his new chapter with his alma mater’s entrepreneurship and innovation planning.”

The Unified-Command Group, comprised of the Tennessee Department of Health, the Tennessee Department of Military and the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency, has established working procedures for testing, procurement, hospital capacity contingency planning, data analysis and other core functions in the fight against COVID-19. The Unified-Command Group
continues to coordinate with the Economic Recovery Group through planning and executing on the safe re-boot of Tennessee’s economy.

“The strong work of Unified-Command will continue as we address the ongoing COVID-19 public health crisis,” said Lee. “This group has optimized our state’s response and we will keep this model in place for as long as needed.”

Lee holds Cabinet meeting to launch distressed counties summit

Gov. Bill Lee welcomes delegates to a summit on economically distressed counties in Linden on Aug. 13, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Gov. Bill Lee has convened his Cabinet in Perry County to kick off a summit on economically distressed counties

Here’s a release from the governor’s office :

LINDEN, Tenn. – Today, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee convened his cabinet for a meeting with local officials from Tennessee’s 15 distressed counties during the Governor’s Rural Opportunity Summit in Perry County.

The meeting caps a state government-wide audit mandated under Executive Order 1 which examines how departments are serving rural areas, specifically distressed counties. Executive Order 1 also required departments to provide suggestions for improvements moving forward.

“I’ve challenged my cabinet to think critically about how we are helping our rural areas,” said Lee. “With 15 distressed counties in the bottom 10 percent of the nation in terms of poverty, average income and unemployment, we have serious work to do and I believe we are up to the challenge.”

23 state government departments submitted significant analysis that showed rural areas will benefit from the improved coordination of services and overall alignment of departments in serving rural Tennessee. Additionally, departments provided innovation recommendations for potential programs and solutions to be considered by the Lee Administration.

Continue reading