Tennessee government corruption
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The Court of Judiciary is charged with investigating complaints filed against judges and determining what disciplinary action, if any, is necessary. Current law states that 10 of the 16 members are appointed by the Tennessee Supreme Court. The proposed bill would reconstitute the Court with 12 members, all of whom would be appointed by the speakers of the House and Senate, and only 5 of whom would be judges.
Taxpayer-funded lobbying in Tennessee, the report warns, leads to a dangerous cycle of overspending. When lobbyists for cities and other government agencies in Tennessee lobby at the state or federal level, they are intent on creating new taxes or raising existing taxes, and expanding their influence over the public. The money generated from new taxes, in turn, is used by Tennessee local entities to fund more government sector lobbying 
Memphis, TN Richard Jones, an Ohio citizen and the Midwest director of the Rev. Al Sharpton's National Action Network, has filed suit in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee over the denial of his records request by the city of Memphis for information concerning the winning bid for a lobbyist position. Citing the Tennessee Open Records Act, the city denied the request claiming that Jones was not a citizen of Tennessee and therefor could not submit records request. Jones, backed by the American Civil Liberties Union, is suing in federal court, seeking to have the statute ruled unconstitutional based on the privileges and immunities clause of article IV of the U. S. Constitution. This case will likely rely heavily on Lee v. Minner a 2006 federal case in Delaware which overturned the portion of the Delaware Freedom of Information Act requiring citizenship.
A bill in the Tennessee General Assembly would benefit some of the largest insurance companies in the country with substantial tax credits. Some of the bill's sponsoring legislators are somehow connected to some of these insurance companies.
The bi-partisan Tennessee Small Business Investment Company Credit Act (House Bill 2083/Senate Bill 1203) would create a $100 million fund for small business investment in Tennessee and states that a private company would manage the money. This legislation creates the Tennessee Small Business Investment Company Credit or TSBIC wherein insurance companies can pay a $7500 fee and invest $500,000 or more to qualify for the credit.
The bill would make it so the insurance companies that participate in the fund would earn a tax credit that is 80 percent of their investment in the fund against their premium tax. The decreases in state revenue thanks to the tax credit program are estimated at over $5 million each year for a minimum of five years starting Fiscal Year 2013-2014.
A company most effected by this bill would be Advantage Capital Partners, a St. Louis, Missouri company with over $1 billion in small business and private equity lending ability, which has had success lobbying for similar bills in other states.
The bill sponsors include Senators Bill Ketron (R-Murfreesboro), Eric Stewart (D-Belvidere) and the lead House sponsor for the bill, Rep. Charles Sargent (R-Franklin), is a State Farm Insurance agent. State Farm is on the Advantage Capital Partners website as having invested in "one or more of the Advantage Capital family of private equity and venture capital funds.".
"State Farm 'doesn't know anything about this bill,' insofar as he has been able to determine thus far, but that he was still trying to validate that understanding," Venture Nashville Connections reported Sargent telling the subcommittee.
Memphis Police Director Larry Godwin and the city of Memphis have filed a lawsuit to learn who operates a blog harshly critical of Godwin and his department. Many of the documents in the case, filed in Chancery Court on July 10, have been sealed by Chancellor Kenny Armstrong.
The lawsuit asks AOL to produce all information related to the identity of an e-mail address linked to MPD Enforcer 2.0. The blog has proven to be popular amongst police officers and residents in Memphis.
"In what could be a landmark case of privacy and the 1st Amendment," the anonymous bloggers write on the site, "Godwin has illegally used his position and the City of Memphis as a ram to ruin the Constitution of the United States." Shortly after, the blog began speaking with the ACLU and hired lawyers from Public Citizen to represent them.
According to the indictment, Michael Kelly, co-defendant in the case, needed help hiding the origin of nearly $70,000 in drug money that was seized during a traffic stop in March. Kelly found someone to provide a document saying Kelly was loaned the money, and Franklin agreed to create a fake document for the non-existent loan.
With the look of legitimacy to the loan papers, Franklin figured the money would be returned to Kelly. Officials say that when Franklin was questioned about his involvement in the scheme he lied about the papers.
Eight Shelby County (Tenn.) Clerk's office employees were indicted in April 2009 for taking bribes to register cars without an inspection or other proper documentation.
City Councilwoman Barbara Swearengen-Ware was named in three of the indictments, which allege the councilwoman gave money to three different employees in order to get a car registered without proper documentation.
Those arrested were: Darlene McKee, Millicent Rogers, Rita Jones, Patricia Reid, Janice Garrett, Anita Porter, Seprice Crews and Julia Marshall.
"Information about the estimated 220,000 Tennesseans authorized by the state to carry loaded handguns in public isn’t the only thing state lawmakers want to shield from residents.
"A bill that would close all public access to the names of people with state-issued handgun carry permits is advancing in the Tennessee House. This is misguided legislation that should be killed.
The legislation is being sponsored by Rep. Eddie Bass, a Giles County Democrat and a retired sheriff. It passed the House Budget Subcommittee on Wednesday. The companion bill is awaiting a vote by the full Senate."
"Chancellor Howell Peoples ruled Monday that he will inspect the itemized legal billings of East Ridge City Attorney John Anderson to determine which, if any, should not be made public.
Judge Peoples gave East Ridge five business days to provide the records and asked attorney Anderson to highlight those he believes should be kept confidential because of 'attorney-client privilege.'"
"If elected officials can't physically make it to most of their meetings, then perhaps they shouldn't be office-holders.
That thought came to mind after the Tennessee House last week unanimously approved a bill that would allow local bodies to meet in online forums rather than in person.
Under this legislation, the local government would have to submit a plan to the Office of Open Records Counsel to ensure that the local body complied with all of the requirements of the legislation."
"Sunday kicked off Sunshine Week 2009. Sunshine Week is a national effort to draw attention to people's right to know. It is also the perfect time for Tennesseans to educate themselves about this most important and vital of American rights.
Tennessee's Sunshine Law is old. It was first passed in 1957. Before last year, it had not been updated since the 1970s. Then, last year, a package of reforms successfully made its way through the General Assembly. Among other things, public officials are now required to give the status of public records requests within seven days, or give a reason why the request cannot be filled."
"While more and more government records are available with a few mouse clicks, Tennessee still does not provide some important state records and reports for free online.
A nationwide survey of state government information online found Tennessee, like many states, has no comprehensive database for state spending and doesn't put a variety of inspection reports online, including those for hospitals, child care centers and school buses and buildings."
Mr. Adams said 88 residents signed a petition asking him to get involved in the dispute to get itemized versions of Mr. Anderson’s bills."
The review by The Commercial Appeal of Memphis comes amid a statewide debate over public access to Tennessee handgun permit records, and the newspaper has stirred those discussions by posting a database of license holders on its Web site.
The state Legislature is considering a call to close the handgun records, with proponents arguing that open access violates the privacy of permit holders."
"It was a question of public records accessibility that was brought before Dresden City Board members Monday evening.
While the resolution to establish procedures for the general public to gain access to public records passed, the topic brought out a lengthy discussion between Dresden’s aldermen.
Under the adopted resolution, people requesting open records from the City of Dresden must fill out a records request form and present identification when seeking access to the record."
"A bill working its way through the General Assembly that would close handgun permit records to the public is unconstitutional and should be rejected. Handgun permit records have long been public records, and they should stay that way. Closing them would unfairly inhibit the news media from doing its job in protecting the public.
The legislation is sponsored in the House by Rep. Eddie Bass, a Prospect Democrat. Under the proposed bill, information about handgun permit holders would become confidential. Unauthorized publication of that information would be a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $2,500."
"When the Tennessee Center for Policy Research recently asked members of the Tennessee General Assembly for insight into their e-mail, two legislators not only didn’t respond — they filed legislation to exempt “electronic mail” from open records requests.
TCPR, a Nashville-based research institute, sent e-mails to all 132 legislators requesting a “screenshot” of their inboxes and their “sent items” folders. (My son, Reed, is an intern at TCPR and assisted in the research.) Only 60 lawmakers complied."
"Tennessee lawmakers are ready again to try to muzzle state records that list who has a permit to carry a concealed handgun, and this time they are considering making it a crime to publish information about gun ownership.
The measure sponsored by Rep. Eddie Bass, a Democrat from Prospect, would make information on gun permit holders confidential and exempt from the state's open records law. The bill is scheduled for a hearing Wednesday by the House Criminal Practice Subcommittee."
"The investigation into improper payroll allegations at the Knox County Trustee's Office has some commissioners questioning what might be going on in the other county offices.
Their operating systems have been called into question and some are calling for audits.
6 News is looking into payroll records from the Register of Deeds, Property Assessor and County Clerk's Offices."
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