boards and commissions

Haslam eyes downsizing UT board, changing leader selection process

Gov. Bill Haslam is considering reducing the number University of Tennessee Board of Trustees, reports Nashville Ledger. Lt. Gov. Randy McNally  says the governor is also eyeing changes in the process for selecting a new UT president or the chancellors who head individual UT campuses.

Haslam spokeswoman Jennifer Donnals declined to address specifics Friday but said “the governor is having conversations about ways to help the UT Board of Trustees operate more efficiently and effectively.”

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Senate confirms four Trump nominees to TVA board

The U.S. Senate has confirmed four of President Donald Trump’s nominees for positions on the Tennessee Valley Authority’s nine-member board of directors, reports the Times Free Press.

Among those approved was Jeff Smith, deputy lab director for operations at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, who was named to one of the five-year terms. Smith was the lone new appointee from Tennessee to the board that oversees TVA operations in all or parts of seven Southeastern states.

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Haslam goes against parole board, exonerates man in 1978 rape conviction

Press release from Gov. Bill Haslam

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today issued the following statement on the exoneration of Lawrence McKinney:

“Today I granted Lawrence McKinney’s request for gubernatorial exoneration from his 1978 convictions. Though the facts of this case are complex and reasonable minds may draw different conclusions from them, ultimately I respect the determinations of the Shelby County Criminal Court and District Attorney General that Mr. McKinney was not guilty of the crimes for which he was convicted and would not have been prosecuted if the DNA testing results had been available at the time of trial. Mr. McKinney was released after more than 30 years in prison when the court set aside his convictions in 2009.

“In the eyes of the judicial system, Mr. McKinney is innocent. While I appreciate the hard work and recommendations of the Board of Parole, in this case I defer to the finding of the court charged with determining Mr. McKinney’s guilt or innocence.”

McKinney, 61, was convicted of rape and burglary in Shelby County. had his record expunged after his release from prison where he spent 31 years.

Further, from The Tennessean:

Although he was out of prison and had his record expunged, McKinney still sought an executive exoneration from the governor to enable him to file for compensation with the Tennessee Board of Claims.

McKinney had the support from state Rep. Mark Pody, Pastor John Hunn of Immanuel Baptist Church in Lebanon and attorneys Jack Lowery and David Raybin in his efforts.

…The Tennessee Board of Parole voted unanimously against recommending exoneration for McKinney in 2016. At the time, at least one parole board member questioned the completeness of the DNA evidence that cleared McKinney. 

The governor is not bound to follow that recommendation and can either grant, deny or choose not to act on an executive clemency request.

U.S. Senate panel hears from Trump nominees to TVA board

A U.S. Senate subcommittee heard testimony Tuesday from President Trump’s four nominees to the TVA Board of Directors. Jeffrey Smith, deputy director of operations at Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the only Tennessean among the four, emphasized the need for clean energy in recruiting new business investment within the region, reports WPLN.  No vote was taken.

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UT trustees donate to Republicans; faculty and staff to Democrats

Members of the University of Tennessee Board of Trustees have made more than $90,000 in political donations so far this year in federal-level campaigns, reports the UT Daily Beacon after a search of FEC data. All but $2,500 went to Republicans while UT staff and students collectively gave $38,000 with only about $1,500 to Republicans.

Ten of the board’s 25 members made political contributions.

In total, (board) members gave $5,900 to Tennessee Republican John Rose, a candidate for the 6th Congressional District; $5,400 to 7th Congressional Republican Representative Marsha Blackburn, a senatorial candidate; and $1,500 to Knoxville County Mayor Tim Burchett, Republican candidate for the 2nd Congressional District.

(Raja) Jubran, who served on Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam’s 2010 campaign finance team prior to his appointment to the Board of Trustees in 2012, has donated $59,200 to candidates and political committees this year, making him the largest donor on the board. Haslam, an ex-officio board member, has made $52,700 in political contributions.

On the other hand, employees at UT, including faculty, staff and graduate students, have made 2,311 contributions this year, totaling over $38,000. In contrast to the Board of Trustees, only $1,578.75 of these donations were made to organizations affiliated with the Republican Party.

State museum chairman says comptroller review vindicates new leadership efforts to resolve past troubles

A “limited review” of Tennessee State Museum operations finds past problems – ranging from missing booze to nepotism and other conflicts of interest — are now being addressed and Thomas Smith, chairman of the board that oversees museum operations, tells The Tennessean he sees the report as a vindication of new leadership.

“I believe that this letter from the comptroller’s office is excellent,” Smith said in a phone interview Wednesday.

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UT trustees grumble about ‘slaps in the face’ to Haslam outsourcing plans

Members of the University of Tennessee board of trustees have slammed a decision by UT Knoxville Chancellor Beverly Davenport to not participate in facilities outsourcing even though Davenport argued the university wouldn’t save as much by privatization as promised, reports the News Sentinel.

In a presentation to the board (Friday), Davenport said UT Knoxville would only save $906,654 in the first year of outsourcing with private company Jones Lang LaSalle, compared to the $5.2 million the company estimated.

The university is already making its own improvements in efficiency; an outside company would not be able to handle the complexity of work associated with facilities management in research departments and the change could be harmful to the local economy, Davenport listed as additional reasons for her decision.

Trustees criticized the decision saying it lacked financial justification and would make it hard to go to the state to ask for money in the future.

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Haslam fills 217 positions on state boards and commissions

News release from the governor’s office

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today announced the appointments of 217 Tennesseans to 93 boards and commissions.

“By serving on our state boards and commissions, these Tennesseans are helping us provide responsive, effective and efficient service to their fellow citizens,” Haslam said. “I am grateful for their service and know they will well represent the people of Tennessee.” 

Appointment terms are varied due to differing statutory requirements or term limits determined by specific qualifications.

The appointments are listed below:

 

Advisory Committee for Purchase From the Blind and Other Severely Disabled

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Commission votes against moving N.B. Forrest statute

Meeting in Athens, the Tennessee Historical Commission on Friday denied the City of Memphis’ request to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest from a city park, reports the Commercial Appeal. The vote came after two hours of discussion.

City Attorney Bruce McMullen said he intends to file an appeal with the Chancery Court in Davidson County within the 60 days allotted by law.

Separately, the commission approved the city’s request to seek a declaratory order from an administrative law judge this November on whether the city even needs a waiver to remove the statue. State lawmakers didn’t add protections of historical figures to the language of the state’s preservation law until 2016, after the city filed the waiver. A previous version of the law protected “war memorials” but not statues like Forrest’s.

Further, from the Memphis Flyer:

Before the commission voted, Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland told the commission he is speaking on behalf of a very united Memphis that wants the statue removed.

“But first we must understand and come to terms with why this statue exists in the first place,” Strickland said, citing that the statue was put in its current location 40 years after the Civil War, just as Jim Crow laws were becoming active. “It’s a monument to Jim Crow.”

Strickland concluded by adding that his administration has respected the legal process thus far and he asked that the commission would “respect the will of Memphis” and formally take up the waiver request.

However, Sons of Confederate Veterans spokesperson Lee Millar told the commission the picture that Strickland painted about Memphis’ consensus to remove the statue is not accurate. Thousands of Memphians say leave history alone, he said.

One of those Memphians is history teacher Elizabeth Adams, who told the commission that everyone is not in agreement with the mayor and city council.

“If you don’t know your history, you are doomed to repeat it,” Adams said. “Next they’ll want to remove the crosses from our churches.”

Steven Stout, an attorney with the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, advised the commission not to vote on the waiver until after the new THC rule-making process is completed and becomes effective, which could take until February.

“It would be a poor decision to not vote until the rules are adopted,” Stout said.

He added it is “practically impossible” to take a vote and provide reasoning for the vote without referencing the rules. This could present legal challenges in the future. He says his counsel is aimed to make the commission “less vulnerable.”

But, after nearly two hours of hearing comments and discussion, commissioner Keith Norman of Memphis made a motion to vote on the waiver, which was seconded by Beverly Robertson, also of Memphis. Norman and Robertson are two of three African Americans on the commission.

Haslam request to move Forrest bust rejected

The State Capitol Commission today rejected Gov. Bill Haslam’s request to move a bust of Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest from the lobby of the state Capitol building to the state museum. Seven of the members on hand opposed the move; five voted yes – and the tally could be seen as a legislature-versus-the-governor lineup.

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