Fines levied against three figures in Tennessee Waltz case - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Fines levied against three figures in Tennessee Waltz case

The Registry of Election Finance levied two fines and upheld another against three figures indicted in the Tennessee Waltz corruption case.

The fines handed down Wednesday against former Sens. John Ford and Roscoe Dixon and Sen. Kathryn Bowers - all Democrats - are unrelated to the bribery charges against them.

Bowers was fined $570 for improperly accepting a political contribution for that amount and the board voted against reconsidering a $10,000 fine imposed earlier on Ford for using political funds to pay expenses at a daughter's wedding.

In the case of Dixon, he was fined $123.94 after records from the TennCare Bureau showed he was wined and dined by then OmniCare executive Osbie Howard. Howard has since left the company, now named UAHC Health Plan of Tennessee.

It is illegal for a lobbyist, or a company that lobbies lawmakers, to buy meals for lawmakers. A loophole exists, however, that allows lobbyists to buy meals for groups of lawmakers.

Dixon was one of four lawmakers reported to have received free meals from Howard.

After reviewing his own records, Joe Armstrong wrote the registry and said that on the date in question in Nashville he was attending the University of Tennessee versus Notre Dame football game in Knoxville.

"The lunch never took place," the Knoxville Democrat wrote.

Rep. Larry Miller, D-Memphis, appeared in person to say the meal never occurred. Miller said he was attending legislative sessions in Nashville at the time Howard reported spending $50.16 dining with him at a Memphis restaurant.

"Osbie Howard is having an awful lot of phantom guests at his meals," said Registry board member William Long.

Ford was also on Howard's dining list. But board members said that the former senator - who had done consulting work for then Omnicare - was effectively an employee of the company and Howard was reimbursing him for his business expenses, which is permitted under state law.

Ford was not fined, but Howard was imposed a fine of $123.94 - twice the amount he was deemed to have spent on meals for Dixon.

In other action Wednesday, the board dismissed a charge against House Speaker Pro Tem Lois DeBerry, who admitted taking $200 from an undercover FBI agent connected to the bribery sting.

Registry Director Drew Rawlins said none of those working with the FBI had registered as a lobbyist, therefore, DeBerry had not broken any laws.

The board delayed consideration of cases of Charles Love, a registered lobbyist and Hamilton County school board member charged as a "bagman" in the sting, and FBI informant Timothy Willis, of Memphis.

Love's lawyer has said he plans to plead guilty later this month to some of the criminal charges.

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