Retreat paid for by government agencies, private businesses - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Retreat paid for by government agencies, private businesses

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - A legislative retreat that is closely associated with the Black Caucus has been funded by a mix of state agencies and private businesses with interest in legislation, according to records released by the caucus.

Last year's Legislative Retreat and Training Seminar had a total budget of $248,000, with more than $163,000 coming from a variety of sources: five state agencies, a health insurance plan with a TennCare contract, pharmaceutical companies, insurance companies, utilities and universities.

The event held in November had about 1,500 attendees for several days of workshops, seminars and social events. Those attending were some legislators, state officials, local leaders and youths selected from a variety of organizations.

The records from the Office of Minority Affairs were made available by Barbara Nance, executive director of the office, on Thursday after she returned from a vacation.

The retreat is organized by the legislative office every year, not the Black Caucus, although caucus members are involved in its planning. House Speaker Pro Tempore Lois DeBerry, a Memphis Democrat who is a caucus member, serves as chairwoman of the retreat.

She called the retreat an important gathering of leaders that is themed for families and children and worried that questions over its finances would tarnish its true intent.

"It's not a party weekend," DeBerry said. "It's about a community coming together, helping us (as legislators) set our agenda to help the people we represent with their agenda."

"There's not all that much money involved and, considering everything we do, there's no way money could be going to waste," she said.

Much of the donations come in the form of advertising sold for the retreat program.

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