published Wednesday, July 27th, 2011

Former Tennessee revenue chief cleared of wrongdoing

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NASHVILLE — Former Tennessee Revenue Commissioner Reagan Farr has been cleared of all criminal wrongdoing in his handling of several business’ sales-tax investigations, officials announced Tuesday.

After a nearly yearlong state probe, Davidson County District Attorney General Torry Johnson and 15th Judicial District Attorney General Tommy Thompson said in a joint statement that a Tennessee Bureau of Investigation probe turned up no evidence of actions to justify criminal charges against Farr, a Bredesen administration Cabinet member.

A staffer in the office of Thompson, who initially sought the investigation, referred questions to Johnson’s office.

“Allegations of possible public corruption are always taken seriously,” Johnson stated. “However, in this situation, it appears the claims were the result of policy differences within the department and not any criminal conduct on the part of the former commissioner.”

The review of Farr’s office was started in August 2010 amid questions over the propriety of settlements and agreements the commissioner approved following investigations of some businesses and their payment of sales tax. The revenue commissioner oversees tax collections and investigations for the state.

Farr left the Revenue Department on Sept. 1 to pursue opportunities in the private sector before public disclosure of the investigation. When news of the probe surfaced, he said he had done nothing wrong.

Efforts to contact Farr were unsuccessful Tuesday, but his attorney, former U.S. Attorney Ed Yarborough, said his client is “doing pretty well today. He’s certainly pleased by the announcement both DAs made.”

“It was unfortunate that it ever got into the news because we always knew Reagan had done absolutely nothing wrong,” Yarborough said. “I never believed this was something that should have gone so far. I thought it was an internal squabble in the Revenue Department that should have been worked out there.”

He also thanked the DAs for publicly stating there was no criminal wrongdoing on Farr’s part.

“One of my concerns was this investigation business would hurt him economically,” Yarborough said. “I’m glad this is out. Now, there won’t be any basis for anyone to hurt his business because of this.”

Thompson confirmed the investigation to the Chattanooga Times Free Press last October, saying he was concerned the Revenue Department under Farr’s direction had “poorly handled” an investigation into whether a Middle Tennessee furniture store was collecting sales taxes.

Farr left the state to begin Silicon Ranch Corp., which develops and operates utility-scale solar facilities. Also involved in the venture is former state Economic and Community Development Commissioner Matt Kisber. The company’s seed money was provided by former Gov. Phil Bredesen, who all along said he was “absolutely positive” Farr had committed no wrongdoing.

about Andy Sher...

Andy Sher is a Nashville-based staff writer covering Tennessee state government and politics for the Times Free Press. A Washington correspondent from 1999-2005 for the Times Free Press, Andy previously headed up state Capitol coverage for The Chattanooga Times, worked as a state Capitol reporter for The Nashville Banner and was a contributor to The Tennessee Journal, among other publications. Andy worked for 17 years at The Chattanooga Times covering police, health care, county government, ...

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