Members of the Tennessee General Assembly are scheduled to hold a Joint Government Operations Committee meeting Wednesday, and sources say they will discuss the controversial Diversity and Equity program for state employees.
State legislators have scheduled the meeting for 1 p.m. Central Wednesday at House Hearing Room I in the Cordell Hull Building in Nashville, according to the Tennessee General Assembly’s website. An agenda for the meeting was unavailable Tuesday night.
Without informing anybody, at least not in a straightforward manner, Tennessee Department of Human Resources (DOHR) officials this year snuck in a diversity and equity council program.
Tennessee State Rep. John Ragan (R-Oak Ridge) (pictured above) chairs the Tennessee General Assembly’s Government Operations Committee. Last week he formally asked DOHR Commissioner Juan Williams to explain the diversity and equity council program he wants state agencies to enforce. In his letter, Ragan requested that Williams justify his actions — in a timely manner — and explain how much it will cost taxpayers.
Committee members usually meet during the summer to ensure that state government officials perform their duties in the most efficient and effective and least costly manner possible — and don’t waste taxpayer money.
Ragan did not return The Tennessee Star’s request for comment Tuesday.
Ragan told The Tennessee Star last week that the Diversity and Equity program concerns him.
“My concerns [about the diversity and equity council] fall into two categories. First, I want to know whether this is an internal policy, only going to affect people inside their department or if it was going to affect people outside their department. My concern there is because I chair the Government Operations Committee. Our TCA Code 4-5-102 lays out guidelines for what’s policy and what has to be rules. So I am trying to get that issue resolved,” Ragan said last week.
“The second thing of concern to me is I did not see anything related to costs. What is this going to cost us in terms of expenditures of doing training or having meetings or whatever it is they are going to do? That, of course, is related to an issue that goes both ways on both of these things. What state or federal guidelines was this effort in response to?”
DOHR staff did not return a request for comment last week, and neither did staff for Lee, who appointed Williams.
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[Editors Note: An earlier version of this story stated “Sources said Williams is expected to appear at Wednesday’s committee meeting as a witness.” The Star has subsequently learned that Williams is not scheduled to testify before the committee on Wednesday.]