Rep. Clemmons Joins Democratic Leaders in Request for Hearing on Food Program Allegations

PRESS RELEASE, Aug. 3, 2015 --  Democratic Members of Joint Government Operations Committee call for appearance of Tennessee Department of Human Resources Commissioner Raquel Hatter and Deputy Commissioner Petrina Jones-Jesz
NASHVILLE, TN—Today, State Representative John Ray Clemmons (Nashville) joined his fellow Democratic members on the Joint Government Operations Committee to call on the Republican chairmen of the joint committee to request the appearance of Department of Human Resources Commissioner Raquel Hatter and Deputy Commissioner Petrina Jones-Jesz on Wednesday, August 19, 2015.  Representative Clemmons and his colleagues’ joint request stems from recently reported allegations that children in Tennessee are being placed at risk for hunger because of a lack of leadership at the Tennessee Department of Human Services. 
“If any of these allegations have merit, our state has failed the very children who rely on us the most, and this is unacceptable,” said Representative John Ray Clemmons.  “I am certainly not going to sit on my hands and hope for leadership out of this Republican administration while kids across Tennessee go hungry.”  Representative Clemmons added, “As one of the only remaining oversight bodies in the state legislature, our joint committee has a duty to provide leadership and oversight where it is otherwise sorely lacking.  I, for one, intend to ask the hard questions and get to the bottom of these deeply troubling allegations.”
The reported allegations include fraud, greed and lack of oversight over an $80 million program that is, in some cases, the only source of nutritious food for 42,000 children during summer months and feeds 180,000 children during the school year.  The Democrats’ serious concerns are heightened in light of the enactment of SB63 (Kelsey/E. Smith) which permits local boards of education to refuse to accept federal funding for school food programs without penalty.  No provisions were enacted to address how the state or local governments would fill the budgetary hole for these lost revenues to sustain operations.
The Democratic members of the Joint Government Operations Committee are Senate Minority Leader Lee Harris, House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh, House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Stewart and State Representative John Ray Clemmons.