2018 Tennessee Pork of the Year Award Voting Gets Underway

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The Beacon Center of Tennessee, a Nashville-based right-of-center think tank, this week announced finalists for its 2018 Tennessee Pork of the Year Award.

The winner gets top billing in Beacon’s yearly Pork Report.

The report catalogs the year’s worst instances of government waste, fraud, and abuse in Tennessee.

As was the case in prior years, people may go online and vote on what they consider the most foolish example.

This year, Beacon staff members offered four options.

The first example, as explained in a YouTube video, concerns former Nashville Mayor Megan Barry and her extra-marital affair with her former security guard.

“Clearly there is no better example of the Pork of the Year than a mayor who everyone thought would go on to be a U.S. senator, maybe even president,” said Beacon Center President Justin Owen.

“She has now fallen in disgrace, not even serving in office anymore because she thought it was a good idea to take taxpayer money and give her chief of security overtime pay and to have an affair with him and to travel the world with him and to travel across the world to places like Greece and France, all on your dime.”

As Owen went on to say, the security chief, Robert Forrest, got more than $174,000 in overtime pay to travel with Barry while they covered up their liaison.

Beacon Policy Coordinator Ron Shultis, meanwhile, appealed for votes for what he said was a $5.5 million fast track grant to ServiceMaster. The money enabled ServiceMaster to move from the edge of Memphis to a newly-renovated mall in the downtown part of the city, he said.

“Service Master did not even have to promise to hire one person. $5.5 million for not even a single newly-created job,” Shultis said in his YouTube video.

ServiceMaster executives, Shultis went on to say, wanted their newly-renovated office to attract tech-savvy millennials.

“But you don’t need $5.5 million of your taxpayer money to recruit programmers with man buns,” Shultis said.

Beacon Vice President of Communications and Outreach Mark Cunningham made the case that Wall Street firm AllianceBerstein deserves Pork of the Year for accepting at least $17.5 million of taxpayer money to relocate to Nashville.

“The bigger problem is we don’t know how much else they got. The state and city decided to keep how much they got private. They are literally covering up how much of our money went to a Wall Street firm to hire no Nashvillians,” Cunningham said.

Beacon Executive Vice President Stephanie Whitt directed her concerns toward East Tennessee.

The University of Tennessee at Knoxville, Whitt said, rightfully earns Pork of the Year because of what she described as its misplaced athletics’ priorities.

“UT Knoxville has spent so much money on coaches and athletic directors over the past several years that we could have taken all that money and combined it together and actually gotten a top-tier coach,” Whitt said.

“I can’t remember the last time we won an SEC game, let alone a championship. It’s time for UT to stop paying people to not show up for work and actually use the money to get a good coach and staff for their team.”

Previous Pork of the Year Award winners include the Tennessee Department of Economic & Community Development’s Industrial Machinery Tax Credit and the controversial Tennessee Logo that had a simple design but cost taxpayers $46,000.

The 2018 Pork Report is scheduled for release in mid-December, Cunningham told The Tennessee Star.

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Chris Butler is an investigative journalist at The Tennessee Star. Follow Chris on Facebook. Email tips to chrisbutlerjournalist@gmail.com.

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