Bredesen denies favoritism
Posted: Thursday, August 26, 2010 9:02 pm
By LUCAS L.
Associated Press Writer
NASHVILLE (AP) — Gov. Phil Bredesen took offense Wednesday to a reporter’s suggestion that favoritism may have played a part in the appointment of the deputy governor as the next chancellor of the Tennessee Board of Regents.
During a press availability on another issue, the reporter asked the Democratic governor: “You think the best guy for the job just happened to be the deputy governor?”
Bredesen responded that the question was “offensive” and that he’s “got a really good record of not messing around behind the scenes to make political things happen for friends.”
“During the … time that I have been governor, I have worked really hard to put the right kinds of people in these jobs,” he said. “There’s no place where I have slid somebody in. Frankly, to suggest that now, I don’t like it.”
Criticism has continued over the board’s appointment of John Morgan, the only candidate interviewed from among six applicants. The full board immediately approved Morgan for the job the same day it received the recommendation of the search committee.
The board also dropped a previous requirement that applicants have a doctoral degree, a move that allowed Morgan’s consideration. His highest degree is a bachelor’s from Austin Peay State University in Clarksville.
Following complaints by some Republican lawmakers, the Senate Education Committee is calling on TBR officials to explain the circumstances around Morgan’s hiring.
Republican state Sens. Bill Ketron and Jim Tracy have said they hope the hearings will be held before Morgan is scheduled to take office Sept. 30. Morgan will continue to serve as deputy governor until then.
“The recent appointment of John Morgan as chancellor of the Tennessee Board of Regents raises multiple red flags regarding the politics and the wisdom of the board, which governs the sixth-largest university system in the United States,” Tracy said in an op-ed piece published in Wednesday’s Tennessean newspaper.
Ketron and Tracy also complained that the board raised the chancellor’s salary to $385,000 from $305,000 despite a salary freeze for state workers.
Morgan, however, has decided to stick with the $305,000 salary of his predecessor, calling the salary dispute a “distraction.”
Regents Vice Chair Bob Thomas said he was pleased to attract Morgan to the board, because he helped craft the Complete College Act of 2010 that was passed in a special session earlier this year.
The act includes changes to the state’s higher education funding formula to emphasize graduation rates instead of enrollment numbers. It also created a statewide transfer policy so any student who earns a two-year degree at a community college can move on to a four-year university as a junior.
Bredesen also upheld Morgan’s qualifications on Wednesday.
“We don’t need to lose track of the fact that what this is really about is … we’ve got to get the college graduation rates in Tennessee up,” he said. “I think John’s a good selection. He knows a huge amount about higher education.”
Published in The Messenger 8.26.10