published Tuesday, March 19th, 2013

Karla Davis quits Tennessee labor post

NASHVILLE — State Labor and Workforce Development Commissioner Karla Davis and her No. 2 deputy, Alisa Malone, abruptly have resigned their posts, days after records in an explosive lawsuit filed by a former top official were placed under a protective order.

Gov. Bill Haslam announced the resignation of Davis on Monday with the governor's office saying it was "due to family reasons." The resignation was immediate. No mention was made of the lawsuit.

Deputy Commissioner Malone resigned last week.

Last fall, former longtime departmental administrator Don Ingram filed suit in federal court, charging that Davis, a Haslam appointee, fired or pushed out dozens of longtime employees, including Ingram.

He alleged in his initial complaint that "virtually every one of the employees who were terminated or forced out" was "Caucasian" while "virtually all of their replacements were of African-American descent."

Malone and Davis are black. Ingram is white.

Meanwhile, in 2011, Davis hired Turner Nashe Jr., elevating him to a top position despite his having been indicted in Ohio in 2010 on charges including money-laundering, theft and several counts of aiding and abetting an unlicensed loan broker who allegedly submitted falsified loan applications.

Cuyahoga County prosecutor's office later dropped the changes without prejudice, meaning they could be brought up again. Last summer, a Labor and Workforce Development spokesman said they had not been.

Davis defended Nashe's hiring. Behind the scenes, longtime employees raised objections.

In his federal complaint, Ingram charged that Davis and others, including Malone and Nashe, "began decimating the Department of Labor by forcing out or firing dozens of valuable, dedicated, long-term employees."

In his statement, Haslam made no mention of the controversies as well as operational problems at the department. He simply said the department had implemented "several key initiatives" under Davis, including a comprehensive online jobs database.

The governor said he is "grateful" to Davis for her service. Burns Phillips has been tapped as acting commissioner.

This is the second resignation of one of Haslam's commissioners. Last month, Children's Services Commissioner Kate O'Day abruptly resigned over issues relating to documentation of the deaths of children who had either been in state custody or had had contact with the department.

O'Day said she was leaving because she had become a "distraction."

about Andy Sher...

Andy Sher is a Nashville-based staff writer covering Tennessee state government and politics for the Times Free Press. A Washington correspondent from 1999-2005 for the Times Free Press, Andy previously headed up state Capitol coverage for The Chattanooga Times, worked as a state Capitol reporter for The Nashville Banner and was a contributor to The Tennessee Journal, among other publications. Andy worked for 17 years at The Chattanooga Times covering police, health care, county government, ...

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