Live from Music Row Tuesday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. – host Leahy welcomed Gary Humble of Tennessee Stands to the newsmaker line to give an update on the Williamson County school boards confirmed nomination of Pfizer VP Josh Brown Monday night.
Leahy: We’re joined on our newsmaker line by Gary Humble of Tennessee Stands. Gary, is it true that Pfizer lobbyist and former Don Sundquist aide Josh Brown was named to the Williamson County School Board to replace Brad Fiscus and finish out his term by the Williamson County Commission last night?
Humble: That is absolutely true despite a petition with over 1,300 verified signatures from Williamson County voters. Despite 30 minutes of public comment, asked 100 percent by the way of public comment. Asking this Commission to delay the vote and not to appoint Josh Brown, they did it anyway.
Leahy: Just tell us how that happened. The commission seems to me to be tone-deaf on this. And Josh Brown himself appears to be tone-deaf. He gave a statement after this to The Tennesseean and said he said, well, I wish people would wait to get to know me before they make any judgments.
We tried to get to know him. He won’t give us any kind about where he stands on the mandatory masks or on CRT. What happened there in the Williamson County Commission meeting last night?
Humble: Yeah, and you’re absolutely right. Several people have reached out. I myself have reached out to no avail. And many people have reached out on the Back to School Facebook run by his wife, Mary Kate.
And when they ask a question, they get blocked and censored from the group. I think at the end of the day, this is what the commission wanted to do.
We knew that there was pressure from legislators and other elected officials to make this happen to nominate Josh Brown. And we know why that is. We know all of the relationships.
Leahy: Why is that, Gary?
Humble: I mean, look, Josh, through no fault of his own he’s a well-connected, well-funded lobbyist. And his wife, Mary Kate, has been a political activist for over 15 years. They’ll admit to you and they’ll acknowledge that she’s helped over half that County Commission get elected, including helping with Roger Anderson’s campaign.
And she used to work on Representative Charles Sergeant’s campaign. By the way, it nice bit of information. This effort was led by Mayor Rogers Anderson to push this vote forward.
Just so happens that whenever Charles Sergeant retired in 2018 and they closed his campaign account, all of his campaign funds. And that campaign was run by Mary Kate Anderson Brown.
$30,000. was the closing amount from that campaign account was put into a PAC called the Sergeant Legacy PAC. And guess who the chairman and treasurer of that PAC is today?
Humble: Mayor Rogers Anderson.
Leahy: The Mayor of Williamson County.
Humble: That’s right. All of this is connected. These are deep political relationships in Williamson County, so we knew we were fighting an uphill battle. But the bottom line is people, in general, don’t want these political ties on their school board.
We want a parent that simply just cares about the kids. And that’s not to say that Josh Brown is not a parent who cares about kids. It’s just that he is also a very well-connected, active political lobbyist.
Leahy: And he’s a lobbyist for Pfizer.
Humble: That’s right.
Leahy: And the Pfizer vaccine for kids five to 12 apparently, hasn’t gone through the approval process. There’s going to be pressure to mandate vaccines Pfizer vaccines for kids in schools. Is he going to recuse himself? What’s he going to do? That’s a conflict of interest right there.
Humble: Absolutely. And that’s true. I will say this on that point. We did pass a law this past session, thankfully, that does restrict the state or any state entity from mandating any vaccine for COVID-19.
That includes our public schools. But as someone mentioned, Josh Brown’s role with Pfizer as a senior VP and lobbyist to chip away at that type of legislation. It’s absolutely a direct conflict of interest.
Leahy: Now describe the evening. When they take this issue up, they hear public comments. How many people got up and spoke?
Humble: Nine people got up and spoke roughly three minutes in total of 30 minutes. One was in favor of asking the board to delay this vote. No derogatory comments about Mr. Brown. The comments were we don’t know enough.
We’re concerned that he’s a lobbyist with Pfizer. We haven’t had our questions answered. We don’t know enough about this guy. And we’d like to have some input into who’s being appointed as our district representative. That was the tone.
Leahy: After those comments, what happened?
Humble: After those comments, they proceeded with some other business. And when they got to the appointment, they had their county attorney come up. And I will say duplicitously lied and skirted the truth on the law.
We know that state law says that these vacancies do not need to be filled for 120 days. That’s the span you have to do this. The county attorney brought up the Private Act of 1972, which he says the vacancies have to be filled by the next scheduled meeting.
Which in this case would be a monthly meeting. The problem is those private acts govern the former county court, which we no longer have a county court. We have a County Commission, and it also references not the next regular meeting.
It references the next quarterly meeting. So Williamson County neither has a county court nor quarterly meetings. Which means those private acts are no longer controlling law. Controlling state law, which says that county legislative bodies have 120 days to fill these vacancies.
Leahy: So he makes the case that they have to do this.
Humble: That they have to do it.
Leahy: Then what happens?
Humble: Well, then they vote. There was a nomination for Josh Brown, there was a nomination for Bridget Parkes.
Leahy: Well Bridget Parkes talked to us and said she’s opposed to masks and she’s supposed to CRT. Did any of these nominees get up and say anything about masks or CRT?
Humble: Bridget Parkes sent a statement that was read by Commissioner Bark. Surgeon Elliott Franklin, who was another nominee, was there and spoke in public comment. People really appreciated him being there.
And by the way, I will say that Bridget Parkes was Lawrence’s choice district for the commissioner to be nominated, had he not been forced to put Joshua Brown up as a nomination.
Leahy: He’s a man of free will right?
Humble: That’s what you would think. (Laughs)
Leahy: He wasn’t forced.
Humble: That’s the problem.
Leahy: He chose to do it.
Humble: Well, we need men.
Leahy: What was the final vote? Did Josh Brown say anything at all? Was he there?
Humble: He did. He came up and said he was saddened by all of the misinformation about him.
Leahy: Oh, my goodness. He was not ashamed of his employer? Did he say Pfizer or his employer?
Humble: He said, employer. That’s right.
Leahy: Did he say Pfizer or just say I’m an employer?
Humble: He said his employer.
Leahy: The word Pfizer did not come up in the meeting.
Humble: That’s correct. No. It did in public comment in public comment, but not from Josh Brown.
Leahy: From the Commission and not from Josh Brown. What was the vote? The Commission needed a majority of 13 to not to a point, and they got 16.
Leahy: So 16 commissioners voted for Josh Brown. Interesting. When will we learn what Josh Brown stands for?
Humble: Well, I suppose coming up, starting at the next scheduled Williamson County school board meeting. Over time, we’ll see what he’s going to do. The thing is, we don’t just need school board members that will vote on issues.
A lot of people are okay voting on issues. But we need school board members who are leaders and who are willing to speak up and defend these issues that we are fighting on behalf of parents. So that remains to be seen. And I guess obviously he’s in there now. So now we’ve got to give him a shot.
Leahy: We’ll find out and see. Gary Humble with Tennessee Stands, thanks so much for that first-hand report.
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