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Press Releases

TN Supremes Pick Haslam’s Chief Counsel as Next AG

Press release from Tennessee’s Administrative Office of the Courts; September 15, 2014:

Herbert H. Slatery, III will be the next Attorney General and Reporter of Tennessee, the Supreme Court announced this morning in Nashville.

Slatery, of Nashville, has served as Gov. Bill Haslam’s chief counsel since 2011. Prior to that, he was an attorney at a Knoxville law firm for 30 years.

“He is an excellent lawyer with proven leadership ability and sound judgment,” said Chief Justice Sharon G. Lee, who stood with the other justices to make the announcement about their unanimous choice in the courtroom at the Supreme Court building in downtown Nashville.

“It’s an incredible honor,” said Slatery in remarks after the announcement was made. “I am profoundly grateful for this opportunity.” He thanked his wife, Gov. Bill Haslam, and Attorney General Robert Cooper, Jr.

“He has played an important role in drafting major legislation during the current term and has worked closely with all branches of government. The people of the state of Tennessee can be proud to have someone of his caliber and experience representing them,” she said of Slatery.

Speaking for the Court, Chief Justice Lee thanked all of the applicants for their efforts and their commitment to public service.

“It was a challenging process because of the quality of the applicants. In the end we selected the person who we thought would be the very best lawyer to serve all Tennesseans,” she said.

The Court also praised the work of the outgoing attorney general.

“The Court extends a special thank you to Attorney General Robert Cooper, Jr. for his eight years of dedicated service to the people of Tennessee, as he has led that office with the highest level of skill and intellect,” Chief Justice Lee said.

Chief Justice Lee spoke to this year’s open process for selecting the state’s attorney general, describing how the Court accepted applications from any licensed attorney in the state. The completed and detailed applications were then made available to the public on the Court’s website. The Court also held a public hearing where the applicants and their speakers made their case for appointment and members of the public expressed their opinions about the applicants. Finally, the members of the Court asked questions of the eight applicants during public interviews.

Slatery is a graduate of the University of Virginia and the University of Tennessee College of Law. He has served as counsel to Governor Bill Haslam since 2011. Before serving in the Governor’s office, he practiced law for 30 years with Egerton, McAfee, Armistead and Davis in Knoxville. Slatery and his wife, Cary, have two children who both live in Knoxville.

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NewsTracker Transparency and Elections

AG Issues Opinion on Kyle Senate Seat Vacancy

Tennessee’s top lawyer has waded into the issue of how to pick nominees for November’s general election to fill the seat of retiring Sen. Jim Kyle.

Unless the executive committee members are selected at large, the candidates for Senate are to be “nominated by the members of the party’s county executive committee who represent the precincts composing Senate District 30,” according to Attorney General Bob Cooper’s opinion. The Shelby County Democratic Party’s website says that county executive committee members are “elected from each state House District in Shelby County.”

The executive committee for the county’s Republican Party has members elected both at-large and by district, according to the Shelby County GOP.

The AG released the opinion Thursday morning in response to a request from Kyle, who won a Shelby County Chancery Court judgeship on August 7, and is leaving the General Assembly after 31 years in the Senate. Kyle has said he’ll resign by the end of August.

Kyle was joined in making the inquiry to Cooper’s office by Memphis Democratic Reps. Antonio Parkinson and G.A. Hardaway, who, along with Kyle’s wife, Sara, and former state Sen. Beverly Marrero, have shown interest in filling Kyle’s chair.

On the Republican side, former U.S. Senate candidate and Memphis millionaire radio station owner Dr. George Flinn has indicated he’s considering a run. Barring a significant upset, though, the seat is expected to stay in Democratic hands.

According to the attorney general’s opinion, any House member currently running for reelection who has won their primary, but also wishes to run for the Senate vacancy, must withdraw from the House race before the party’s executive committee meets to make their selection. However, Cooper also wrote that if the candidate withdraws from that race, the party won’t be allowed to nominate another candidate.

The opinion was sought amidst some confusion about whether or not the caucus process the county party officials wanted to use would meet statutory requirements.

While he had not yet read the opinion Thursday afternoon, the spokesman for the Tennessee Department of State, Blake Fontenay, said the Division of Elections would “defer” to the the decision of the state’s attorney, and “would act consistently with their ruling.”

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Education NewsTracker Transparency and Elections

Womick Redoubles Haslam Criticisms

Rick Womick isn’t backing down from provocative comments he made in a letter sent to Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration a week ago.

The Rockvale Republican state representative told the Associated Press this week he’s sticking by his letter. In fact, he’s upped the rhetorical heat a bit, calling the reelection-seeking governor a “traitor to the party.”

“You had the head of our party targeting individual members because we don’t agree with him 100 percent of the time, that’s treason,” the former Air Force fighter pilot told the AP.

The Chattanooga Times Free Press first reported that, according to campaign finance reports, Advance Tennessee PAC, with connections to supporters of Haslam and Republican Speaker of the Tennessee House, Beth Harwell, was launched in July and spent $137,725 in five primary races against incumbent legislators who’ve opposed the administration.

Successfully fending off attacks from moderate challengers in the GOP primary were state Reps. Courtney Rogers of Goodlettsville, Mike Sparks of Smyrna, and  Micah Van Huss of Jonesborough.  Kingsport Rep. Tony Shipley, the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee chairman, and Stacey Campfield, the notoriously controversial state senator from Knoxville, were both unseated.

Haslam laughed-off Womick’s warlike words. And he defended efforts to purge hostile Republicans from the General Assembly.

“I don’t know why my supporters should be precluded from doing what everybody else is doing, in terms of being engaged and trying to make certain good people are elected,” Haslam told reporters. He added that there are plenty of groups, such as teachers unions, who want to “engage in primaries,” and he doesn’t see his supporters actions as being any different.

Womick was one of 15 state legislators to sign a letter in late June that called for the resignation of Kevin Huffman, Tennessee’s embattled education commissioner, on the grounds that he allegedly manipulated the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program results when the department delayed their release by four days.

After the release of that letter, Tennessee Attorney General Bob Cooper issued an opinion — requested by state Sen. Mae Beavers, R-Mt. Juliet — that affirmed Huffman’s delay of the release of TCAP scores as acceptable under state and federal law.

Womick’s most recent letter to the administration accused the AG and Huffman of collusion on the opinion, and referred to it as “an orchestrated cover-up” and “Clintonesque.” Womick’s letter added that while many other legislators were unhappy with Haslam, to prevent further retaliation, he would not name them.

He also told the AP that in the future he expects a stronger legislative stance against Haslam, who is “making a lot of enemies very quickly.”

But Haslam said he plans to continue business as usual.

“For any governor, the job is to propose an idea and then to get at least 50 members of the House and 17 members of the Senate to vote in favor of it,” Haslam said. “I don’t think that’s changed.”

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NewsTracker Transparency and Elections

Kyle Seeks AG Opinion on Filling His Senate Vacancy

The Shelby County Democratic Party is preparing to select a nominee to fill the vacancy Memphis Sen. Jim Kyle’s departure from the state Legislature will create. But the outgoing upper-chamber minority leader has concerns about how that process will unfold.

On Friday, Kyle, who is retiring after 31 years in the Senate, requested that the state attorney general issue an opinion that sorts out the legal issues surrounding how to select a nominee to run as his replacement to the General Assembly.

Kyle’s request comes on the heels of Tennessee Democratic Party Chairman Roy Herron, a former state senator, telling local party officials that there was confusion about the local caucus process they’ve indicated they will employ to select the nominee. Herron has concerns about the timing of the caucus, who can vote at the caucus, whether the decision would be made by a majority or plurality of votes and whether it would be a public roll-call vote or by secret ballot, according to the Commercial Appeal.

Kyle won a Shelby County judgeship on Aug. 7. and will resign from the Legislature after he’s sworn-in on Aug. 29. However, state law doesn’t provide for a government-run open primary when the timing of a vacancy in the Senate occurs so close to voters going to the polls in November. Instead, officials from the county parties are authorized to choose nominees for the general election ballot.

Democrats such as Sara Kyle, Sen. Kyle’s wife, and former state Sen. Beverly Marrero, who Kyle defeated in the 2012 primary, have expressed interest in the seat. Additionally, current Shelby County Tennessee House members Antonio “2-Shay” Parkinson and G.A. Hardaway, may also be looking to move to the General Assembly’s upper chamber.

Following the GOP-led redistricting in 2011, Marrero and Kyle found themselves opponents in the 2012 Democratic primary. After her primary loss, Marrero told TNReport that she felt “betrayed” by Kyle’s request to Republicans that he be drawn into a race against her instead of State Sen. Brian Kelsey, a Germantown Republican and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

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Education Featured NewsTracker

Critics of Huffman Want Decision from Haslam

Despite a recent opinion by Tennessee’s attorney general offering legal cover to the state Department of Education for its decision to delay release of student test scores, critics of the agency’s embattled commissioner aren’t letting up on their demand that he be cut loose.

And they want Gov. Bill Haslam to make a decision sooner this summer rather than later in the fall after the general election, as he’s indicated he intends to do.

“I haven’t sat down and had that conversation with [any of the commissioners] about the next four years, because it’s not appropriate,” Haslam said on July 8. “I’m in the middle of a campaign right now, and we will — this fall, if I’m re-elected, we’ll sit down with all 23, and see if they want to continue, and if that works for us.”

Kevin Huffman has been a lightning rod for criticism from both the left and the right. But by the same token he’s got staunch defenders among both Republicans and Democrats as well. Two of his biggest fans have been Tennessee’s GOP governor and the Obama administration’s education chief, Arne Duncan.

Haslam has been emphasizing improvements in test scores that have come about under Huffman, including Tennessee’s status as the fastest improving education system in the nation. The fundamental test of his administration’s education efforts ought to be student performance, the governor said, and in his estimation kids in Tennessee’s publicly funded classrooms are “learning more than they ever have before.”

However, opposition to Haslam on education — in particular, his embrace of both Common Core and student-testing as a means of evaluating the job teachers are doing — runs deep both among educators and conservative politicians who fear the state is giving up control of its education system to outside forces.

Citing a “complete lack of trust” in the commissioner, as well as alleging the manipulation of test scores, a letter sent to Haslam on June 19 demanded Huffman be replaced. Fifteen Republican members of the Tennessee General Assembly — 13 lawmakers in the House and two senators, endorsed the letter, which declared that mistrust of Huffman stems from his “actions and general attitude,” and that he’s demonstrated a “failure to uphold and follow the laws of the state of Tennessee in this latest TCAP debacle we are currently witnessing.”

The letter also questioned whether or not Huffman had the authority to waive the inclusion of TCAP scores, considering that a bill passed by the General Assembly in the 2014 session granted Huffman waiver abilities, but specifically excluded waiving requirements related to “assessments and accountability.”

But state Attorney General Bob Cooper recently released an opinion, requested by state Sen. Mae Beavers, R-Mt. Juliet, that found Huffman in fact didn’t abuse his authority by waiving those requirements, that no state or federal law “would be violated by a delay in releasing TCAP test scores,” as long as the results were provided by June 30, which they were.

The attorney general’s opinion did little, though, to change the minds of Huffman’s detractors.

Sen. Joey Hensley, a Republican from Hohenwald, said he “wasn’t surprised” by the attorney general’s office opinion, and said it didn’t really carry any legal weight. And anyway, “there are a lot of different issues” on which Hensley said he’s had problems with Commissioner Huffman.

Hensley, a member of the Senate Education Committee, indicated he stands by the letter’s main thrust. Huffman should “go somewhere else,” he said. “I just feel like the commissioner doesn’t listen to the superintendents and the teachers and the principles, and he doesn’t listen too much to the Legislature, either.”

Julie West, the president of Parents for Truth in Education, said that she thinks that Cooper’s opinion is just splitting hairs.

“The irony is Commissioner Huffman pushed for this, because he’s all about the testing, and when he doesn’t get the results he wants all of a sudden he wants to do away with that being factored in,” West said. “And let me say, if the Governor and the Commissioner were really as proud of TCAP scores as they want us to believe, it certainly would not have been announced during the Fourth of July.”

West said that she was not just in favor of Huffman’s resignation, but that he should be fired. West also said that part of the problem, and what was “more disturbing,” was that Cooper “seems to have forgotten that he is supposed to be the attorney for the people of Tennessee, rather than a servant of the Governor.”

“I think that part of the issue is the people of Tennessee don’t have a voice in who the Commissioner of Education is, and don’t have a voice in who the Attorney General is,” West said. “And for that reason they don’t feel, or they seem to act in ways that don’t show a lot of concern for what we believe, and truthfully for what the law seems to be.”

West described her group as not of any particular political perspective, but just people who are not “tolerating” what’s happening to their kids under Common Core or Huffman’s education department.

And regardless of the attorney general’s view on the controversy over the TCAP scores, those on the left wing of Tennessee’s political spectrum still think Huffman needs to go, too. The Tennessee Democratic Party has regularly called for Huffman’s ouster, on the grounds that he is aloof and unresponsive to local teachers and education officials.

The governor owes it to the people of Tennessee to declare whether or not he plans to keep Huffman around, said Democratic Party Chairman Roy Herron. That decision, Herron told TNReport, “is overdue, and should be both made and announced as soon as possible.”

“The commissioner has refused to listen to the teachers in public schools, and to the superintendents and schools boards who run those schools,” Herron said in a phone interview. “But the commissioner has united Tennesseans, from Tea Party Republicans to Tennessee Democrats, from 60 superintendents to thousands of teachers, who all agree it is past time for this commissioner to go back to Washington.”

Mary Mancini, a Democratic candidate for the Tennessee State Senate district being vacated by longtime state legislator, Sen. Douglas Henry, said that Haslam needs to either make his decision about Huffman, or “explain in non-political terms” why he has not made that decision yet, because she finds the education commissioner’s performance to be lacking.

“When looking at this job performance, it’s clear that [Huffman]’s just not working the way he should be; doing his job basically,” said Mancini. “He’s been difficult and unresponsive to legislators on both sides of the aisle. Somebody needs to hold him accountable, and both Republicans and Democrats have been trying to do that, and he’s been completely ignoring them, and unresponsive, and that’s not acceptable.”

And the Tennessee Education Association, the state’s largest teachers’ union, believes that the TCAP delay is another in a line of issues with the state’s top education executive, said Jim Wrye, government relations manager for the TEA.

“The policies were placed in that it would be anywhere between 15 and 25 percent of a student’s grade, and that it wasn’t ready at the end of school just threw a huge wrench into what is one of the most important things — which are final grades — for students, and especially for teachers,” Wrye said.

Wrye, though admitting he’s not a lawyer, said that he found the AG’s opinion interesting  because “the idea that you could be exempted from student assessments was something that was prohibited in that flexibility bill. It was something we had discussed at length during the legislative session.”

In September 2013, 63 school superintendents from around the state signed a letter criticizing the education reform policies being implemented by the state’s top education office. And later in 2013, teachers’ unions across the Volunteer State cast votes of “no confidence” in Huffman.

However, Huffman has enjoyed some recent support, with a petition of support recently announced that, as of press time, features over 400 signatures from Tennesseans, including Kate Ezell, a consultant associated with the Tennessee Charter School Incubator as a funds-raiser from September 2011 to January 2013.

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Press Releases

TN AG Announces $2.1B Joint Federal-State Settlement with Ocwen Financial

Press release from the Office of Tennessee Attorney General Bob Cooper; December 19, 2013:

Tennessee Attorney General Bob Cooper announced today that Ocwen Financial Corporation of Atlanta, Georgia, and its subsidiary, Ocwen Loan Servicing, have agreed to a $2.1 billion joint state-federal settlement with Tennessee, 48 additional states and the District of Columbia, and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).

The terms of the agreement address servicing misconduct by Ocwen, and two companies later acquired by Ocwen, Homeward Residential Inc. and Litton Home Servicing LP. Ocwen specializes in servicing high-risk mortgage loans.

According to the complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia today, the misconduct resulted in premature and unauthorized foreclosures, violations of homeowners’ rights and protections, and the use of false and deceptive documents and affidavits, including “robo-signing.”

The agreement with the nation’s fourth largest mortgage servicer is the result of a massive civil law enforcement investigation and initiative that includes state attorneys general, state mortgage regulators and the CFPB. Through a consent judgment filed today for the court’s approval, the agreement holds Ocwen accountable for past mortgage servicing and foreclosure abuses, provides relief to eligible homeowners through principal reduction and cash payments to eligible foreclosed borrowers, and stops future fraud and abuse.

“What we found in the Ocwen case is similar to a lot of the problems we saw in our other mortgage servicer enforcement cases,” Attorney General Bob Cooper said. “This is part of our ongoing civil law enforcement effort to hold mortgage servicers, including Ocwen, accountable and ensure that they treat borrowers fairly.”

Under the agreement, Ocwen agreed to $2 billion in first-lien principal reduction, and $125 million for cash payments to borrowers on nearly 185,000 foreclosed loans nationwide. In Tennessee, Ocwen will provide troubled borrowers with an estimated $18.8 million in first-lien principal reductions, and the borrowers on 3,626 loans that were foreclosed will be eligible to receive a cash payment. The payment amount, which is contingent on the number of consumers who submit valid claims, is projected to exceed $1,000.

Joseph A. Smith, Jr., Monitor of the National Mortgage Settlement, will oversee the Ocwen agreement’s implementation and compliance through the Office of Mortgage Settlement Oversight. The National Mortgage Settlement, which was reached in 2012 with the attorneys general of 49 states and the District of Columbia, the federal government, and five mortgage servicers (Ally/GMAC, Bank of America, Citi, JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo), has so far provided more than $51 billion in relief nationwide to distressed homeowners and created significant new servicing standards.

The Ocwen agreement does not grant immunity from criminal offenses and would not affect criminal prosecutions. The agreement does not prevent homeowners or investors from pursuing individual, institutional or class action civil cases. The agreement also preserves the authority of state attorneys general and federal agencies to investigate and pursue other aspects of the mortgage crisis, including securities cases.

Ocwen Agreement Highlights

  • Ocwen commits to $2 billion in first-lien principal reduction.
  • Ocwen pays $125 million cash to borrowers associated with 183,984 foreclosed loans.
  • Homeowners receive comprehensive new protections from new mortgage loan servicing and foreclosure standards.
  • An independent monitor will oversee implementation of the settlement to ensure compliance.
  • The government can pursue civil claims outside of the agreement, and any criminal case; borrowers and investors can pursue individual, institutional or class action cases regardless of the agreement.
  • Ocwen pays $2.3 million for settlement administration costs.

Because of the complexity of the mortgage market and this agreement, which will span a three year period, in some cases Ocwen will contact borrowers directly regarding principal reductions.

Borrowers should contact Ocwen at 800-337-6695 or ConsumerRelief@Ocwen.com to obtain more information about principal reductions and whether they qualify under the terms of this settlement. A settlement administrator will contact qualified borrowers associated with foreclosed loans regarding cash payments. More information will be made available as the settlement programs are implemented. For more information on the Ocwen agreement, visit www.tn.gov/attorneygeneral or www.CFPB.gov. For more information about free foreclosure prevention counselors or mortgage assistance programs in Tennessee, struggling homeowners may visit www.tn.gov/attorneygeneral or www.KeepMyTNHome.org or call the State of Tennessee’s free Mortgage Assistance Hotline at (855) 876-7283 Monday-Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. CT

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Press Releases

Beavers Praises TN AG Opinion on Local Pseudoephedrine Purchase Restrictions

Statement from State Sen. Mae Beavers, R-Mt. Juliet; December 10, 2013:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – State Senator Mae Beavers, R-Mt. Juliet, released the following statement today in response to the opinion issued by Attorney General Robert Cooper on municipal-wide prescription requirements for cold and allergy medicines containing pseudoephedrine. The attorney general determined that local efforts to restrict access to popular cold and allergy medicine containing pseudoephedrine violate existing state law.

“Attorney General Cooper’s opinion is an important development in the battle against methamphetamine production in Tennessee,” said Senator Beavers. “As the author of legislation that implemented Tennessee’s real-time pseudoephedrine-tracking technology, I have long maintained that local prescription-only measures run counter to the spirit of that law. Attorney General Cooper’s opinion demonstrates that these local ordinances do indeed run afoul of the law. Going forward, there is no question that there remains much work to be done to address the illegal manufacture of methamphetamine. I look forward to working with state legislators from both parties to implement balanced solutions that target criminals, not law-abiding Tennesseans.”

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Press Releases

TN Attorney General Calling for FDA to Regulate E-Cigarettes

Press release from the Office of Tennessee Attorney General Bob Cooper; September 24, 2013:

Tennessee Attorney General Bob Cooper has joined 39 other attorneys general asking the FDA to place restrictions on advertising and sales to minors and ingredients contained in electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes), which are growing increasingly popular as alternatives to traditional tobacco products.

The Attorneys General expressed their concerns in a bipartisan letter co-sponsored by the Massachusetts and Ohio Attorneys General asking the FDA to take all available measures to regulate e-cigarettes as “tobacco products” under the Tobacco Control Act. E-cigarettes, an increasingly widespread product that is growing rapidly among both youth and adults, are battery-operated products that heat liquid nicotine, derived from tobacco plants, into a vapor that is inhaled by the user.

State Attorneys General have fought for years to protect people from the dangers of tobacco products. In 1998, the attorneys general of 52 states and territories signed a landmark agreement with the four largest tobacco companies in the United States to recover billions of dollars in costs associated with smoking-related illnesses, and restrict cigarette advertising to prevent youth smoking.

Unlike traditional tobacco products, there are no federal age restrictions that would prevent children from obtaining e-cigarettes. Noting the growing use of e-cigarettes, and the growing prevalence of advertising, the letter highlights the need to protect youth from becoming addicted to nicotine through these new products.

“We are always concerned when a potentially dangerous product is being sold to the public without regulation,” Attorney General Cooper said. “This is especially alarming when companies attract youth to addictive products through advertising.”

The letter to the FDA notes that e-cigarettes manufacturers have used cartoon characters (banned by tobacco manufacturers for years) and fruit and candy flavors that are often attractive to young people. In addition, the e-cigarettes and refills of liquid nicotine solution can be obtained over the Internet without age verification.

A survey conducted by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention shows that from 2011 to 2012, the percentages of youth who have tried or currently use e-cigarettes both roughly doubled. The survey estimates that nearly 1.8 million middle and high school students have tried e-cigarettes in 2012.

According to the U.S. Surgeon General, nicotine is highly addictive and has immediate bio-chemical effects on the brain and body at any dosage, and is toxic in high doses. The lack of regulation of e-cigarettes puts youth at risk of developing a lifelong addiction to a potentially dangerous product that could also act as a gateway to using other tobacco products.

E-cigarette manufacturers are using marketing tactics similar to those big tobacco used in the last 50 to 100 years to attract new smokers. Celebrity endorsements, television advertising, cartoons, fruit flavors, attractive packaging and cheap prices all serve to encourage youth consumption of these dangerous products.

Additionally, some marketing claims lead consumers to believe these products do not contain the same level of toxins and carcinogens found in traditional cigarettes, cigars, and other tobacco products. Additionally, some marking claims imply that e-cigarettes are a safe alternative to smoking, when in fact nicotine is highly addictive, the health effects of e-cigarettes have not been adequately studied, and the ingredients are not regulated and may still contain carcinogens. The lack of regulation puts the public at risk because users of e-cigarettes are inhaling unknown chemicals with unknown effects.

The letter to the FDA can be found here: http://www.tn.gov/attorneygeneral/cases/ecigarettes/ecigaretteletter.pdf.

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Press Releases

TN AG Files Suit for Removal of Lewis County Trustee over Missing Funds

Press release from the Office of Tennessee Attorney General Bob Cooper; September 19, 2013:

Tennessee Attorney General Bob Cooper has filed suit seeking the removal of Lewis County Trustee Clark D. Carroll from office for allegedly stealing approximately $45,000 from his office and falsifying financial records to conceal the theft, Cooper announced today.

The ouster lawsuit was filed Wednesday afternoon in the Lewis County Circuit Court based on information uncovered during a Tennessee Comptroller’s audit. Carroll was elected as Lewis County Trustee and took office on Sept. 1, 2010. The suit alleges that he wrote checks payable to himself or to cash and failed to deposit cash received by his office for the payment of property taxes on numerous occasions totaling approximately $45,000 between Oct. 24, 2011 and June 15, 2013. The lawsuit further alleges Carroll admitted to state investigators that he unlawfully took the funds for personal use.

As Trustee of Lewis County, Carroll is paid $58,739 per year to collect taxes from Lewis County citizens. His term expires Aug. 31, 2014. Based on state law, the Attorney General is required to investigate allegations of wrongdoing and institute ouster proceedings against a public officer if there is reasonable cause to believe the officer has violated the law in connection with the duties of his office.

The Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury began conducting an annual audit of Carroll’s office in July 2012. Auditors found that Carroll wrote checks from the county’s bank account to himself and subsequently cashed the checks. The audit also found that cash received by Carroll’s office had not been deposited into county accounts. Further investigation revealed that Carroll fabricated information on check memos, check stubs, and false receipts for deposits. The lawsuit cites Carroll for theft of property, official misconduct, forgery, failure to deposit official funds, and failure to reimburse public funds.

The Attorney General’s Office has asked the Court to suspend Carroll pending final adjudication of the case and has requested a hearing.

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Press Releases

TN, 36 Other States Reach $7M Settlement with Google

Press release from the Office of Tennessee Attorney General Bob Cooper; March 12, 2013:

Google will pay Tennessee and 36 other states $7 million and revamp its consumer privacy practices as a result of an agreement filed today, Attorney General Bob Cooper has announced. Tennessee’s share is estimated at $133,528 as part of the agreement stemming from privacy complaints regarding Google’s collection of data from unsecured wireless networks nationwide while taking photographs for its Street View service between 2008 and March 2010.

The agreement now bans unauthorized data collection and requires Google train its employees on privacy and launch a nationwide campaign to educate consumers on how to protect their information.

“We are pleased Google recognizes consumers’ right to privacy and will no longer collect information during its Street View photography without their permission,” General Cooper said. “I strongly encourage Tennesseans to take more proactive steps to secure their personal wireless Internet connection to avoid any other similar privacy intrusions.”

At issue in the case is Google’s Street View maps in which the company used cars equipped with antennae and open-source software that the company acknowledged collected network identification information. It then used those that information for other services such as geo-location applications. Google has admitted it simultaneously collected and stored information gathered from nearby home and business wireless networks without permission.

While Google represented it was unaware it was gathering unsecured wireless data while the Street View cars were driving by, the company acknowledged the information it collected may have included Internet addresses of requested Web pages searches, partial or complete email communications, and any confidential or private information being transmitted to or from the network.

Google has since disabled or removed the equipment and software used to collect the payload data from its Street View vehicles, and agreed not to collect any additional information without notice and consent.

As part of the agreement, Google has agreed to segregate and secure the information it gathered and will destroy the information as soon as legally practicable. Further, Google agreed that the data was not used, and will not be used, in any product or service. The company also agreed that the information collected in the United States was not disclosed to a third party.

Other key elements of the agreement require Google to run an employee training program for at least 10 years. It must also conduct a public service advertising campaign to help educate consumers about steps they may take to better secure their personal information while using wireless networks.

View the Assurance of Voluntary Compliance here: http://www.tn.gov/attorneygeneral/cases/google/google.html.