Ethics Commission Takes No Action Against Ingram, Haslam

Ethics Commission Takes No Action Against Ingram, Haslam

By Ben Hall. CREATED Sep 12, 2013

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - The Tennessee Ethics Commission met in public and privately today and discussed two issues involving lobbyist and political operative Tom Ingram.

First, the commission could not come to final decision on whether to fine Ingram, his firm or a client for failing to register with the state.

It effectively means the issue is closed, and the commission will not levy any fines.

Ingram's firm lobbied on behalf of Hillsborough Resources for three years.

Hillsborough oversees a coal company that wants to mine on state land.

Ingram told NewsChannel 5 Investigates in May that the failure to register was an "inadvertent oversight."

Today, the Ethics Commission voted 3-1 to take no action, but it officially takes four votes for a motion to pass.

It is the second time the commission has stalemated.

One board member abstained from the vote.

Another board member proposed a $1000 penalty, but no other member seconded his proposal.

Executive Director Drew Rawlins said the issue is effectively over.

"It's basically done unless the Ethics Commission asks me to put it back on the agenda.  It will not automatically appear on the Ethics Commission agenda again," Rawlins said.

Late Wednesday, the Ingram Group released the following statement: "We're pleased that a majority of the Commission determined again - just as they did in August - that no civil penalty or other action was warranted in this case.

"We are glad this matter has been taken off the Commission's agenda, and we appreciate the thoughtful consideration the Commission and its staff has given to this matter."

In a second matter, the Ethics Commission met in a closed door session to review a complaint filed against Gov. Bill Haslam's campaign.

Commission rules require closed-door meetings to review complaints.

Former Democratic Party Chair Chip Forrester filed a complaint with the commission that claimed Gov. Haslam violated ethics rules by refusing to disclose how much he personally paid lobbyist Tom Ingram.

According to attorney Joseph "Woody" Woodruff with Waller, Lansden, Dortch and Davis, who represented the governor's campaign, the commission dismissed the complaint.

Commission members are not allowed to talk about the issue.

When contacted after the meeting, Chip Forrester told NewsChannel 5 Investigates he was not aware the complaint had been dismissed.

Forrester's complaint must still be heard by another state board.

The Registry of Election Finance will review the complaint at its meeting next month.

The Registry's meetings are open to the public.

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Ben Hall

Ben Hall

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Ben Hall is a veteran reporter at NewsChannel 5. He has covered the state legislature, presidential campaigns and is presently part of NewsChannel 5's award-winning investigative unit.