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New state constitutional officers elected

In a historic vote, in a joint session of the state house and senate, all three sitting Constitutional Officers have been replaced.

big_tnIn a Republican led move that appears to place more importance on candidate’s party affiliation than actually qualifications, your new Constitutional Officers are as follows:

  • Secretary of State – Tre Hargett (formerly Riley Darnell)
  • Treasurer – David Lilliard (formerly Dale Sims)
  • Comptroller – Justin Wilson (formerly John Morgan)

The press was more interested in the Comptroller and Treasurer candidates, and seemed to give Mr. Hargett a pass.  Phil Williams, of News Channel Five ran several special investigative reports on Justin Wilson, David Lilliard, and Ira Brody.  Here is a little summary of what Mr. Williams found out about these nominees.

david-lillard1David Lilliard: Republican, Tax attorney, and Shelby County Commissioner touted his 1 year on the Shelby County Retirement System Board of Trustees as enough experience to qualify him to head up the Tennessee Consolidated Retirement System (TCRS).  In the job interviews, application, and resume, Mr. Lilliard repeatedly states his one year experience was his main qualification.

Reporter Phil Williams notes that during the turbulent economy of 2008, Shelby County Retirement System lost 36% of its value, whereas the TCRS under Treasurer Dale Sims lost just 22%.  Williams also points out that TCRS is 37 times as large as Shelby County retirement system ($27 billion vs. $800 million).  Williams asks Lilliard why he thinks he can produce better results that Treasurer Sims.  Lilliard’s answer is surprising:

“My own personal philosophy is somewhat different than the people who control other pension funds, for example the Shelby County Pension fund, I only served a year on the board down there and one of the reasons was because I think it should be conservatively invested.”

So which is it?  Is his year experience enough or was it “only a year”?

Just to contrast, Treasurer Dale Sims (Democrat) started his career is state government in 1980 as a auditor with the Comptroller’s Office.  In 1982, he transferred to the Department of Treasury as a staff assistant.  In March of 2004, Mr. Sims, after working his way through the ranks of the Department for over 22 years, was elected State Treasurer.

View the special report:


justin-wilsonJustin Wilson: a Republican and Environmental Lawyer, was the sole Republican applicant for the Comptroller or as Mr. Wilson says “the job of money cop.”  Mr. Wilson served as a Deputy Governor under Governor Sundquist.  You may recall that the Sundquist Administration was marred by a major scandal that involved state contracts.  Along with the FBI, TBI and IRS, the scandal was investigated by the Comptroller’s Office, the Office Mr. Wilson now holds.  Sundquist appointee Joana Ediger was sent to prison for rigging a $2 million dollar contract for a friend of then Governor Sundquist, John Stamps (who also pled guilty).

Ron Ramsey told Williams that Justin Wilson would make an excellent Comptroller.  It should be noted that during Mr. Wilson’s interview for the position, no Republican legislator brought up the scandal.  As Comptroller, Mr. Wilson is the final approver on all state contracts.  When Williams asked why no one asked about Wilson’s possible involvement in the contract scandal, Ramsey stated did not know anything about the contract scandal under the Sundquist Administration.  The scandal occurred in 2003; Mr. Ramsey has been serving in the Legislature since 1996.

Wilson refuses to discuss what he knew about the contract scandal citing Attorney Client privileges.  Ben Cunningham, a “Tax Watchdog “ explains it this way, “”If somebody is running for a very important oversight position like this is and they are unwilling to answer the question, it’s a huge red flag.” Ron Ramsey implied this was a non-issue and that he was not concerned.  So Ramsey is unconcerned of any possible involvement by Wilson in a scandal that Ramsey admittedly knows nothing about?

Reporter Phil Williams also found some possible violations of election finance laws, involving former Governor Sundquist and a Political Action Committee operated by Justin Wilson.  Phil Williams also alleges that Mr. Justin Wilson’s Master’s degree in taxation is from Kennedy Western University, which has been described by Congressional auditors as a bogus diploma mill.

Again, to contrast, Comptroller John Morgan has almost three decades of  experience in state government working in a variety of capacities from the Department of Finance and Administration (2 years),  Fiscal Review Committee (2 years), Department of Treasury (2 years), and the Comptroller’s office (20 years, 10 as Comptroller).

View the special report:

Clarksville’s Elected Officials Vote

I contacted Clarksville’s elected state officials to get their insight and intentions on the vote.  Rep. Joe Pitts (D) and Senator Barnes (D) fully supported the re-election of all three constitutional officers citing their extensive on the job experience and proven track record over the past couple of decades.  Both voted for the re-election of Comptroller Morgan, Treasurer Sims, and Secretary Darnell.  I have included their response to my email below.

Curtis Johnson (R) failed to respond to my email, but he voted to replace all the sitting Constitutional Officers with the Republican nominees.

View the special reports on Ira Brody:



Email from Rep. Joe Pitts

Thank you Blayne for your message.  I plan to vote to retain Comptroller Morgan, Treasurer Sims and Secretary of State Darnell.  During this dire economic situation I believe changing to unproven individuals in the key areas of financial management of this state would be a serious mistake.  I too have witnessed first hand the very effective and even handed way all three people have performed and we are blessed to have them in their positions right now.

I look forward to reading your piece in ClarksvilleOnline.



Other useful links:




Blayne Clements
Blayne Clements
I am a 30 something graduate from Austin Peay State University, where I graduated in 1997 with two majors (Accounting and Finance). I am a very happily married man, with one beautiful daughter. I enjoy a professional life of public service and a personal life of travel, reading, music, and always trying to learn from others.


  1. This should make all Tennesseans very upset. They have replaced proven experience and professionalism with political patronage loyalists just as this state faces its worst financial crisis in decades. Qualifications for the job at hand should supersede imposing a political ideology. Tennessee belongs to all its people, not just those who chose to wear red to denote their political affiliation.

    These gentlemen must show themselves worthy of the disruption their elevation has placed upon us, the people of Tennessee. May they show themselves able to the task ahead.

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