Bredesen's Cabinet logged 42 trips in final six months

Bredesen's Cabinet logged 42 trips in final six months

July 22nd, 2011 By Tom Humphrey/Knoxville News Sentinel in News

Former Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen

NASHVILLE - Gov. Bill Haslam's Cabinet members have taken 24 fewer out-of-state trips so far this year than their predecessors did during the last six months of Gov. Phil Bredesen's administration, state records show.

Bredesen's department heads made 42 journeys outside the state from July 1 through Dec. 31, 2010, with at least some of the costs charged to state government, according to reports posted on the Department of Finance and Administration's website - a practice begun by Bredesen and continued by Haslam.

Some of the Bredesen Cabinet travel occurred just weeks before the commissioners left office.

Finance Commissioner Dave Goetz went to Washington Sept. 29-Oct. 2 for what is described on the department's website report as a meeting at the "Health and Human Services Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information." On Nov. 8, Goetz announced his resignation to become a vice president of Ingenix, a health care information technology and services company.

Former Revenue Commissioner Regan Farr, who announced in August his resignation effective Sept. 1, made two trips in July, the last being a visit to the New York University Summer Institute in Taxation Conference that ended July 30.

John Morgan, as deputy governor to Bredesen, traveled to Boston for a National Governors Association Conference for four days ending July 11. Two days later, he applied to become chancellor of the state Board of Regents and was elected to that position Aug. 6.

Former Economic and Community Development Commissioner Matt Kisber made the last trip at taxpayer expense by a Bredesen Cabinet member, an early December journey to Washington for a Southern Governors Conference meeting that cost about $1,500.

Haslam was inaugurated Jan. 20, and from then until July 1 members of his Cabinet have made 18 out-of-state trips, reports kept on the Department of Finance and Administration website show.

"We've made a concerted effort to limit out-of-state travel. There is certainly necessary travel, but there is a lot of work to be done here in Nashville such as conducting top-to-bottom reviews of each department and taking a look at boards and commissions throughout state government," Haslam spokesman David Smith stated in an email.

Smith said Deputy Gov. Claude Ramsey must approve any out-of-state travel.

Four of the commissioners appointed by Bredesen have retained their positions in the Haslam administration and made trips in both the last six months of 2010 and the first six months of 2011.

Of the four, Greg Gonzales, commissioner of the Department of Financial Institutions, has been the most frequent traveler. He made five trips in the closing months of Bredesen's administration and has made six under Haslam, the most recent being a June journey to Palm Beach, Fla., to speak at the Tennessee Bankers Association convention at a cost to taxpayers of about $1,200.

Other carryover commissioners traveling under both Bredesen and Haslam include Tourism Commissioner Susan Whitaker, who made four trips in Bredesen's last months and has made one under Haslam. Health Commissioner Susan Cooper made one trip under Bredesen in the period and two under Haslam, while Adjutant General Terry "Max" Haston, who heads the Tennessee National Guard and the Department of the Military, made one trip under Bredesen and one under Haslam.

The cost to taxpayers of the travel varies widely.

Bredesen and Goetz were not available for comment.