January 8, 2014
By Chris Butler, Tennessee Watchdog
Nashville — Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam will not disclose any information about taxpayer-funded benefits he may have offered to Volkswagen in exchange for the company possibly keeping the United Auto Workers out of its Chattanooga plant.
That was the answer Haslam, a Republican, gave to State Rep. Mike Turner, D-Old Hickory, in a written response to Turner’s public records request.
As Tennessee Watchdog reported in September, Turner suspected that Haslam, in an attempt to keep the UAW out of Tennessee, had offered state-financed incentives to Volkswagen.
Turner publicly announced he was making his open records request in September, but other news agencies have apparently not reported the results of that request.
“We got a response back saying if there was anything that it would be covered under economic development. Therefore it wouldn’t be public information,” said Turner’s spokesman Sean Braisted.
“Basically, nothing that we wanted was attainable. They didn’t give us anything.”
Haslam’s response, which Braisted sent to Tennessee Watchdog, said the information Turner requested was protected from public disclosure under Tennessee law. Specifically, Haslam’s office said the information is private until all parties involved sign formal contracts or other agreements — even though taxpayer money is at stake.
Additionally, Haslam’s office said that some of the details Turner requested involved confidential tax information.
Tennessee Watchdog sent the letter to Haslam spokesman Dave Smith for a response.
“The letter is pretty clear on which portions of the Tennessee Code are cited,” Smith said, without volunteering any other details.
Volkswagen of Chattanooga spokesman Scott Wilson said he would offer no comment on the matter.