NASHVILLE -- Gov. Phil Bredesen has amended his state disclosure of personal interests form to reflect his recent investment in Silicon Ranch Corp., a solar energy venture started by two of his top Cabinet aides, records show.
The amendment, filed Nov. 10 following news reports about the company, effectively eliminates the need for questions about the disclosure by the state Bureau of Ethics and Campaign Finance, said Bureau Executive Director Drew Rawlins.
"We would have had to send something to Gov. Bredesen, basically notifying him that we felt his Statement of Interests needed to be amended and that he had five days to do it," Rawlins said Monday. "If he didn't do it within five days of receipt of that certified notice, he would be subject to civil penalties."
Those would have amounted to $25 a day up to 30 days. After that, total fines could have climbed to as high as $10,000. But Bredesen's filing negates any need to send the letter, Rawlins said.
In a Nov. 10 letter to Rawlins, Bredesen legal counsel Junaid Odubeko said the governor's April 15, 2010, statement was "being amended to reflect a new investment" in Silicon Ranch.
Bredesen, who leaves office Jan. 15, notes in the amended statement, dated Nov. 9, that he "recently made a passive investment" and is a minority shareholder in Silicon Ranch Corp., a start-up venture that seeks to help finance construction of solar arrays.
Most of the investments held by Bredesen, a self-made millionaire, have been placed in a blind trust except for a private software-development firm he founded and a company that manages use of his private jet.
News of the Silicon Ranch start-up venture emerged on Nov. 4 with Bredesen telling The Tennessean newspaper he had invested an amount "in the very low six figures" in the company.
Corporate filings for Silicon Ranch list Bredesen as chairman, Economic and Community Development Commissioner Matt Kisber as president and former state Revenue Commissioner Reagan Farr as vice chairman.
In an e-mail, Bredesen spokeswoman Lydia Lenker said the "governor is required to disclose his investment, but there's no time requirement for amending that disclosure."
"He made his annual disclosure this spring, made the investment in September and amended the disclosure in November," Lenker said. "It's certainly no secret that he's invested in the company. He amended his disclosure to reflect this investment."
In comments to reporters last week, Bredesen called his investment and the venture, which follow several years of a Bredesen initiative pushing alternative energy investments, "perfectly appropriate" and said Farr and Kisber are "two people I admire very much."
"I like to encourage people who are entrepreneurs-in-waiting," Bredesen said. "And when they had this idea ... I said you can't pursue it when you are running the department, but when you leave I'd be happy to support it."
Bredesen noted Farr, who left state government on Sept. 1, has come under intense scrutiny because of an investigation launched by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and FBI. The probe involves how Farr handled several sales tax collection investigations. In at least one case, a matter that had criminal implications appeared to be settled for civil resolution.
The Times Free Press initially reported that the investigation was under way. Farr has welcomed the investigation, saying he did nothing wrong.
Bredesen last week alluded to state Comptroller Justin Wilson's office looking at the Revenue Department's actions.
The Tennessean reported Sunday that Farr had asked and on July 28 received advice from state Attorney General Bob Cooper's office as to whether he had authority to disregard staff rulings and dismiss penalties against taxpayers. Farr also asked Cooper whether auditors from the comptroller's office could overrule his decisions.
He was advised that he could disregard staff rulings, dismiss penalties and the comptroller's office could not overrule his decisions, The Tennessean reported.
Contact staff writer Andy Sher at email@example.com or 615-255-0550.