tilman goins

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.

Rogers, Goins out at Department of Veterans Services

Gov. Bill Lee, bottom left, looks on as his Cabinet takes the oath of office in Nashville on Jan. 19, 2019. (Erik Schelzig Tennessee Journal)

Former Republican state Reps. Courtney Rogers and Tilman Goins have resigned from their respective positions as commissioner and deputy commissioner of the state Department of Veterans Services, The Tennessean’s Natalie Allison reports.

Gov. Bill Lee’s office did not say what caused the simultaneous resignations.

Rogers, a retired lieutenant colonel in the Air Force, was a tea party activist who benefited from a political storm surrounding her predecessor, then-Republican Caucus Chair Debra Maggart of Hendersonville, to win her first of three terms in 2012. Maggart had upset public school teachers and gun rights advocates, and Rogers ended up winning the race 57% to 43%.

The outcome sent shock waves through the legislative office complex in Nashville. But knocking off the No. 3 Republican in the House didn’t mean Rogers was fast-tracked for leadership. She mostly kept a low profile as a lawmaker, siding with groups like the Americans for Prosperity in opposing Gov. Bill Haslam’s gas tax hike and supporting various legislative initiatives to loosen gun restrictions.

UPDATE: Lee has announced Rogers’ interim successor:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Today, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee announced Major General Tommy H. Baker as the interim commissioner for the Department of Veterans Services. Former commissioner Courtney Rogers will return to the private sector.

“Gen. Baker is a committed public servant and I thank him for his willingness to lead the Department of Veterans Services during this critical time for our state,” said Gov. Lee.

Gen. Baker previously served as the Deputy Adjutant General of the Tennessee National Guard (TNG) with the responsibility to assist the adjutant general in the oversight and administration of over 13,000 Soldiers and Airmen in the TNG. He enlisted in the Tennessee Army National Guard in Huntingdon, Tennessee in 1980 and was commissioned as an armor officer in 1985. He is a 1995 graduate of the University of Tennessee-Martin with a Bachelor’s Degree in Public Administration. He received his Masters Degree in Business Administration and Military Management from Touro University in 2003, and is a 2011 graduate of the United States Army War College with a Masters in Strategic Studies.