COMMENTARY Stockard on the Stump: Funk will audit the governor’s pandemic spending spree

    By Sam Stockard | Tennessee Lookout |  December 10, 2021

    When Funk pokes his finger in the state’s eye, upset GOP lawmakers play right into his hand.

    Historic Nashville Courthouse. (Photo: John Partipilo)
    Historic Nashville Courthouse. (Photo: John Partipilo)

    Never one to shy away from conflict with the state government, District Attorney General Glenn Funk is taking up the request of a state senator to audit the pandemic spending of Gov. Bill Lee’s administration.


    Sen. Heidi Campbell, D-Nashville, asked Funk this week for an audit and financial review of about $740 million in no-bid, sole-source contracts, some of which were embarrassing to the state. Even Health Department officials have said they had to move too fast to spend federal COVID-19 funds.


    Funk spokesman Steve Hayslip said Thursday the district attorney received Campbell’s letter this week and confirmed he will audit the governor’s spending.


    “He is deciding what office or agency can best assist the District Attorney’s office in conducting an audit to address Senator Campbell’s concerns. Audit findings will be made public,” Hayslip said in an email.


    Campbell’s letter urges Funk to use the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation or any other “appropriate agency” to assist in a full review of state contract activity during the COVID-19 pandemic.


    Funk, who is seeking another term, faces challenges from former prosecutors Danielle Nellis and Sara Beth Myers. Answering the call could give him a boost in a city that isn’t fond of the state Legislature.


    The DA took a political hit when he negotiated a plea deal with former Metro Police Officer Andrew Delke in the killing of Daniel Hambrick, who was shot as he ran from the officer in 2018. Funk won election in 2014 with strong support from the Black community, but Black leaders began protesting his actions after the plea deal.


    He’s capable of regaining points in blue Davidson County by thumbing his nose at the Republican-controlled Legislature and governor’s office.


    Funk was the clear target of legislation passed in late October enabling the state attorney general to appoint replacements for DAs who publicly state they will not prosecute specific  laws.


    Funk this year let it be known he would not spend resources on a new law requiring restaurants and bars to post restroom signs letting customers know transgender people could be using their facilities. The law is tied up in litigation.


    The Davidson County DA also has said he would not prosecute people caught with a half-ounce of pot or less, nor would he enforce state laws cutting access for women to abortion procedures or the governor’s executive order against mask mandates at public schools.


    Those moves have infuriated Republicans in the Legislature, with several of them calling his decisions unconstitutional.


    That might make them look good back home, but in doing so, they make Funk public enemy No. 1 for the General Assembly, which gives him points with Nashville voters.


    While Funk pokes his finger in the state’s eye, Republican lawmakers are playing right into his hand.


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