NASHVILLE - A state agency today dismissed a complaint that Republican Gov. Bill Haslam violated state law by not disclosing personal payments he made to top political consultant and lobbyist Tom Ingram.
The Tennessee Registry of Election voted 3-1 with one member abstaining on the complaint filed by Chip Forrester, a former state Democratic Party chairman.
Haslam and Ingram have argued the advice Ingram gave was strategic and related to organizational and structural matters at various state issues. But Haslam had conceded some political advice was involved and an email to Ingram was involved in at least one meeting last October dealing with the governor's upcoming 2014 reelection effort.
In an affidavit presented to the Registry, Ingram said he attended just the one meeting and maintain "I was not compensated."
During the hearing, which neither the governor nor Ingram attended, Registry members peppered Forrester with questions why he had only included news clips in his complaint but not copies of the emails.
Forrester asked for time to obtain copies to present to them. But several members, after listening to Haslam's attorney, said while Ingram's work at times may have been political, it was not election related and therefore not actionable.
Following the meeting, Forrester said he hasn't decided whether to refile the complaint. In September, a similar Forrester complaint was dismissed by the state Ethics Commission.