The Tennessee Lobbyist Association (TLA) has called upon its members to refrain from seeking advisory opinions from the Tennessee Ethics Commission for the foreseeable future.
In an e-mail sent to members of the TLA by their chairperson Anne Carr, she states, "After consultation with our capable lobbyist, Mark Greene, and several other TLA members who have been paying close attention to TEC member and staff activity, I respectfully suggest that our membership refrain from seeking advisory opinions from the Commission for the foreseeable future.'
When asked about reason for the moratorium, Carr said "There is a growing concern among TLA members that the TEC staff are drifting away from interpreting the law and towards making policy."
Carr stated that while the staff of the commission has been exceptionally helpful with answering questions on the phone, it is the written advisory opinions that have people concerned and the lack of input sought by the staff.
It has been the practice of the staff of the TEC to post advisory opinions on their website that have not been voted on or approved by the members of the ethics commission. Several lobbyists have also told NashvillePost.com that when one lobbyist asks for an opinion that affects others, the TEC staff, led by Bruce Androphy, operates in a vacuum.
One lobbyist told NashvillePost.com, "They work on a question for a month or more without speaking with anyone other than the one person who sought an opinion, doing so without taking into consideration that others are affected. The first we hear on some of their explanations behind their opinions is at a monthly meeting that we have no reasonable way to prepare. Some of the reasons that are put forward, well they are just from left field."
The source then cited a letter sent by Androphy last year to the governor's office asking whom he had met with on health care issues to see if they were registered lobbyists, and if not, if they had violated the ethics laws. The group was actually there to express their concerns about the shortage of nurses in Tennessee.
The moratorium called for by the TLA carries no consequences, and states, "Obviously, you have every right to do so as you see fit. However, we are in a period of some uncertainty with regard to a number of major issues, and it seems advisable to try to delay or at least coordinate such requests to the extent that it's possible to do so. You should absolutely continue to reach out to TEC staff for assistance with reports or with any questions that may arise about how to ensure compliance with the statute."