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VOL. 124 | NO. 61 | Monday, March 30, 2009

Daily Digest

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Bank Reclaims Two Homes, 55 Lots for $1.6 Million

First Tennessee Bank NA has bought back two homes and 55 lots owned by J. Sweeney Homes LLC after foreclosing on the properties earlier this year. First Tennessee acquired the homes and lots March 23 in a $1.6 million substitute trustee’s sale on the courthouse steps.

J. Sweeney had defaulted on a $7 million loan through the bank dated Sept. 6, 2006. The financing was for 68 lots in Laurel Tree II Planned Development, a 33.34-acre subdivision north of Holmes Road between Hacks Cross and Forest Hill-Irene roads.

J. Sweeney Homes, whose principal is Jeff Sweeney, bought the lots for $3.6 million from the developer, Laurel Tree LLC. Two of the lots were developed into homes; their addresses are 5182 and 5117 Laurel Springs Drive.

The 5182 Laurel Springs Drive home, completed in 2008, is 3,816 square feet and was appraised this year at $336,700. The 5117 Laurel Springs Drive home, completed in 2007, is 3,869 square feet and was appraised this year at $323,400. Both homes sit on 0.41-acre lots.

Officially, First Tennessee bought the properties from Kelly N. Stovall, who served as substitute trustee in the matter. Stovall was appointed to the position in February. The first-run foreclosure notice on the properties appeared in the Feb. 26 print edition of The Daily News and at The Daily News Online, www.memphisdailynews.com.

Source: The Daily News Online & Chandler Reports

GOP Governor Contenders Line Up Campaign Teams

Three of the four Republican contenders for Tennessee governor in 2010 have announced key members of their campaign teams in the past week.

The campaign positions aren’t high-profile, but those who fill the jobs are important because their influence and knowledge of how to run a statewide campaign will play a large role in how the candidates are able to get their respective messages to voters.

Shelby County District Attorney General Bill Gibbons has a team that includes Wendy Carter as his finance chairman. Carter’s most recent campaign was Republican Bob Corker’s successful 2006 bid for the U.S. Senate. Methodist Healthcare Corp. CEO and President Gary Shorb is West Tennessee finance chairman. AutoZone Inc. CEO Bill Rhodes is Shelby County finance chairman. Dr. John Bakke and Layne Provine, both of Memphis, are working on the Gibbons campaign as consultants.

U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp of Chattanooga has hired former state GOP chairman Bob Davis as his campaign chairman. Davis’ political roots extend to his work as an aide to former U.S. Sen. Fred Thompson. Former Tennessee Valley Authority chairman Bill Baxter is Wamp’s finance chairman. Baxter was state finance chairman for Thompson’s 1992 Senate campaign. As his campaign consultants, Wamp has hired John Crisp, a longtime aide to U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, and Ed Goeas, who has worked on several campaigns with Wamp as Wamp prepared to become a statewide candidate.

Last week, Tom Ingram, one of the most experienced and successful Republicans involved in running statewide campaigns, announced he is leaving as chief of staff to Alexander to work as a consultant for Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam’s bid for governor. Ingram starts work on the Haslam campaign in May.

The fourth Republican contender, Lieutenant Gov. and Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey, is expected to announce his team after the legislative session ends. He is banned under state law from raising any campaign money while the Legislature is in session. Ramsey has said, however, that he will be a candidate for governor.

AG Opines Effect of Judge Selection Law

Tennessee Attorney General Bob Cooper said there could not be an election for appellate judges in either 2010 or 2014 if Tennessee’s current method for selecting appeal judges and Supreme Court justices is scrapped.

The Judicial Selection and Judicial Evaluation commissions are set to expire this year. Several Republicans asked for the opinion to find out what effect expiration of the commissions would have.

In the opinion issued Friday, Cooper said with no provision for electing judges, the incumbents would remain in office without an election.

Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey, a Blountville Republican, said he’s working with the Senate Government Operations Committee to keep the commissions from expiring.

Judge Dismisses Whistleblower Lawsuit

A judge in Boston federal court has dismissed a whistleblower lawsuit filed by former Medtronic employee Jacqueline Poteet.

The case was in jeopardy after Poteet lost a similar case on appeal as first reported by The Daily News March 12.

U.S. District Court Judge Richard G. Stearns in Boston directed lawyers on both sides of the case to prepare briefs on whether it should be dismissed after the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit earlier this year affirmed the decision of a Memphis federal judge to dismiss another whistleblower lawsuit filed by Poteet. After the briefs were filed, Stearns dismissed the case.

In both of the cases, the courts cited the public disclosure rule of the whistleblower statute. That statute, the False Claims Act, provides financial incentives for people to report illegal activity, but it also has provisions to prevent opportunistic suits after the activity has been publicly disclosed.

Medtronic’s Spinal and Biologics Business is based in Memphis.

Tanner’s Office Calls for Bill Changes

The Food Safety Modernization Act of 2009 needs changes to better protect small, independent farmers, according to the office of U.S. Rep. John Tanner, D-Tenn.

“There are obviously a lot of farmers in his district – West and Middle Tennessee,” said Randy Ford, communications director for Tanner. “We have heard from some of them and many farmers are concerned about some of the provisions in this bill, as is Congressman Tanner, the way it is written right now.

“He is not a co-sponsor. We do expect that some changes will be made. Obviously, there needs to be some effort to make sure that our food supply is safe. Congressman Tanner supports that, but, at the same time, it needs to be done in a way that doesn’t negatively impact those people who we rely on to grow that food. Some of the provisions in there people are worried are a little too far-reaching.”

The House Committee on Agriculture is likely to make the bill more palatable to farmers, Ford said.

U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., has introduced legislation that would divide the responsibilities of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and put food under the purview of the Department of Health and Human Services. Even though the bill does have an exclusion clause for farms in its definitions, many farmers are still worried about the consequences of the legislation.

Changing Tenn. Wine Law Could Fix Legal Issues

Tennessee Attorney General Bob Cooper said a legislative proposal to allow wine to be bought at out-of-state wineries would resolve problems with existing law.

The Senate is scheduled to vote today on the proposal sponsored by state Sen. Doug Overbey, a Maryville Republican, that would allow up to five cases from out-of-state wineries to be transported into Tennessee. It’s currently against the law for any alcohol to be brought across state lines.

Advocates say the changes are needed in the wake of a federal appeals court decision last year that found existing special rules for Tennessee wineries were unfair to competitors outside the state.

masterIT Listed in Global Ranking

Memphis-based network solutions company masterIT has been included in the MSPmentor 100, an annual global ranking of the most successful and innovative managed service providers.

The firm, which checked in at No. 99, is the only representative from the Mid-South.

The list recognizes managed service providers, tech consulting firms and value-added resellers that offer customer service solutions and products in the information technology market.

Founded in 2005, masterIT provides technology services for small- and medium-size businesses in the Mid-South.

Franklin Farms Forms Neighborhood Association

The Cordova neighborhood of Franklin Farms – a subdivision at Houston Levee Road and U.S. 64 – has formed a neighborhood association and a neighborhood watch program.

The boundaries of the new association consist of Cottage Farm Drive to the south, Houston Levee to the west, Cobb Road to the east and U.S. 64 to the north. The goal of the new association is to give a unified, active voice that promotes the area’s interests, and the neighborhood watch has been established with the Memphis Police Department and other local neighborhood watch offices to keep the area safe.

A slate of events is being prepared for 2009, including a Neighborhood Night Out and activities for children.

PROPERTY SALES 56 56 9,658
MORTGAGES 49 49 10,665
BUILDING PERMITS 212 212 21,170
BANKRUPTCIES 49 49 6,157