NASHVILLE — Advisers to Republican Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam carefully timed the public release of a new policy allowing the governor and his senior staff to keep secret the amount of their outside income, state records show.
The policy change was released to the media the day after Haslam's Jan. 15 inauguration. The release came late Sunday afternoon after an open house at the governor's mansion and too late for Haslam to be questioned about it by reporters.
The wording of the release and internal e-mails obtained by The Associated Press through a public records request indicate that senior advisers carefully planned the media strategy for informing the public about the decision.
“I do not want it to be out when there is media at the residence,” Tom Griscom, the governor’s chief communications adviser and formerly the Chattanooga Times Free Press editor and publisher, wrote in an e-mail to two other Haslam aides. “If he answers any questions, they should be light, tied to the first weekend, getting ready to go to work etc.”
The release boasted of Haslam’s “commitment to transparency and openness,” but did not specifically spell out that it was lowering the disclosure standards set by former Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen.
The new governor had been heavily criticized by his Republican and Democratic opponents for refusing to disclose how much money he was paid from the family owned truck stop business, Pilot Flying J.
The governor has denied there was any attempt at gamesmanship, arguing that the disclosure issue was sufficiently hashed out during the governor’s race and the new policy shouldn’t come as a surprise.
See complete coverage in Saturday's Times Free Press.