Herron says let the sunshine in

Herron says let the sunshine in

State Senator Roy Herron successfully amended a bill Monday to require that foundations that contract with the University of Tennessee be required to hold open meetings and maintain publicly accessible financial records.

“All of us are aware that sometimes in the past, private foundations connected with public universities have done things in private that don’t benefit the public,” Herron said. “This amendment is designed to make sure those kind of things don’t occur.”

Senate Bill 336 authorizes the UT Board of Trustees to designate and enter into agreements with foundations designed to raise money and support the university. Herron’s amendment requires that most meetings of the foundation be open to the public, and that all expenditures by the foundations be made public record.

“If a dollar is spent – if a penny is spent – it is our intent that every record and document connected to it will be open to the public,” Herron said. “Light is a great disinfectant and the best assurance that donors will know that their gifts will go to benefit the University of Tennessee.”

Such oversight is crucial given past problems with the UT Foundation, which a 2003 audit found that the foundation could be used to circumvent accountability laws for public funds and assets. Former UT President John Shumake was forced to resign amid ethical and financial violations involving the foundation.

Herron’s amendment was offered in the spirit of Tennessee Sunshine Week, which promotes open records and open government. The amendment passed unanimously in the Senate and now awaits approval in the House. 

In addition to Senate Bill 336, Herron sponsored several other bills including: 

• Senate Bill 1832 – Alcoholic Beverages – As introduced, creates a Class A misdemeanor offense for the manufacture, sale, offer for sale, advertisement, or distribution of any caffeinated alcohol drinks; defines caffeinated alcohol drink.

• Senate Bill 1833 – Education Curriculum – As introduced, rewrites the requirement that LEAs must integrate a minimum of 90 minutes of physical activity per week to require LEAs to integrate 30 minutes of physical activity per school day for elementary and secondary school students.

Herron co-sponsored Senate Bill 0034 – Flags – that would require state flags to be flown at half-staff by political subdivisions during a day of mourning declared by the governor for Tennessee National Guard members killed in action.

Sen. Roy Herron represents Benton, Decatur, Henry, Henderson, Lake, Obion, Perry, Stewart and Weakley counties. Contact him at sen.roy.herron@capitol.tn.gov or 615-741-4576 or 309 War Memorial Building in Nashville.

wcp 3/24/11

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