Senate to hold inquiry into Tenn. Regents hire

Senate to hold inquiry into Tenn. Regents hire

Posted: Friday, August 13, 2010 8:02 pm

NASHVILLE (AP) — State lawmakers say they will hold hearings on the selection of a top aide of outgoing Gov. Phil Bredesen as the new chancellor for the Tennessee Board of Regents.
The Tennessean reported today that following complaints from Republican lawmakers, the Senate Education Committee will call on TBR officials to explain the circumstances around the hiring of Deputy Gov. John Morgan last week.
Criticism has been growing over the appointment of a longtime political hand to an academic position as the chief executive over the Regents system of universities and colleges.
Republican state Sens. Bill Ketron and Jim Tracy told the newspaper they also wanted to know why the Regents lowered educational requirements for the position and increased the salary before making the hire.
Ketron said he also wants TBR officials to explain why the Senate has not been asked to confirm members to the board, despite a law that gives senators the right to reject appointees.
“We have no control over (Morgan’s hiring),” Ketron said. “What we do have control over is confirmation of the Board of Regents.”
Ketron and Tracy said they hope the hearings will take place before Morgan is scheduled to take office Sept. 30. Morgan will continue to serve as deputy governor until then.
A Bredesen spokeswoman told the newspaper that neither the governor nor Morgan were available for comment Thursday.
Morgan previously served as state comptroller and as an adviser to the state legislature and was the only candidate interviewed for the position among six applications. The full board immediately approved Morgan for the job on the same day it received the recommendation from the search committee.
The board also dropped a previous requirement that applicants have a doctoral degree, which let Morgan be considered because his highest degree is a bachelor’s from Austin Peay State University.
Ketron and Tracy also complained that the board raised the chancellor’s salary to $385,000 from $305,000 in the middle of a salary freeze for state workers and ignored a request from the chairman of the Senate Education Committee to expand the search.
“You would not believe the number of people who have contacted me about this issue,” Tracy said. “It’s people from all walks of life. It just doesn’t feel right to them.”
Although the Senate has the right to remove board members, Ketron and Tracy said no such votes have taken place in their two terms in office. But they have not decided whether they would call for the removal of any board members.
“The bottom line is with this new chancellor,” Tracy said. “There are a lot of things in play… It’s all going to come out when they go before the hearing.”
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Information from: The Tennessean, http://www.tennessean.com

Published in The Messenger 8.13.10

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