Tennessee legislator accused of double dipping on taxpayers

Tennessee legislator accused of double dipping on taxpayers

Tennessee State Rep. Gary Hicks, R-Rogersville, didn’t take unpaid leave as a public school system technology director, and he continued to withdraw a $65,000 annual salary even while in legislative session.

Rogersville resident Tish Kozlowski told Tennessee Watchdog Hicks should have taken unpaid leave while in Nashville — 250 miles away.

Kozlowski said Hicks is guilty of “double-dipping” — as the Rogersville School System’s technology director and as a state legislator.

“People in Rogersville are not OK with this,” Kozlowski said, adding she and others in the town of roughly 4,500 people have written letters to their local newspaper about it.

If people are upset it’s breaking news to school system director Rebecca Isaacs, who said she’s heard no complaints.

Gary Hicks (photo courtesy of the Tennessee General Assembly's website)

Gary Hicks (photo courtesy of the Tennessee General Assembly’s website)

Isaacs said Hicks is a devoted public servant. She said Hicks has a strong enough stamina to do both jobs at once and a strong enough Wi-Fi connection to do his school technology job from anywhere in the world, including Nashville.

“Mr. Hicks has done a remarkable job at this early juncture in his legislative career,” Isaacs said.

Hicks was not elected to his legislative seat.

Hawkins County commissioners, by a vote of 19-1, appointed Hicks to the seat in December after former Rep. Mike Harrison resigned earlier that month, according to the TimesNews.net.

Isaacs said she sought counsel from an attorney who told her Hicks isn’t the first public school system employee to serve in the Legislature.

Two months before Hicks took Harrison’s seat, Isaacs sent an email to the local board of education predicting — with nearly pinpoint accuracy — how matters would play out.

“There is a high likelihood that our Director of Technology, Gary Hicks, will complete the term of Rep. Mike Harrison when Mike transitions to a new position at the close of this year,” Isaacs said in an email dated Oct. 12.

“Gary and I have been discussing this possibility for some time and have a plan in place. Gary will be able to fulfill his role in our district, although, during session, he will not be in the office Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday.”

Isaacs then said she was “thrilled at the thought of having our very own advocate in Nashville.”

“The county commission will vote on Gary’s appointment in December. Both Gary and I wanted you to hear this news from me at this time,” Isaacs went on.

TOO MUCH CAPITOL?: State Rep. Gary Hicks is double-dipping by not taking unpaid leave from his job as the Rogersville School System's technology director, some say (photo by Chris Butler).

TOO MUCH CAPITOL?: State Rep. Gary Hicks is double-dipping by not taking unpaid leave from his job as the Rogersville School System’s technology director, some say (photo by Chris Butler).

When asked about this email, Isaacs said she takes pride in keeping the board apprised “on any issue of which I have knowledge.”

Greg Fletcher, one of the county commissioners who appointed Hicks, said Hicks once served as county commissioner and was a good choice.

Dwight Carter, another county commissioner, had little to say.

“Gary Hicks is my business, and not yours,” Carter said.

Isaacs and Hicks said any complaints are politically motivated, especially when they come from Kozlowski.

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“Her house is decorated with my opponent’s signs,” Hicks said in an email.

“My opponent’s boyfriend is from the area which Mrs. Kozlowski lives. Plus, the Kozlowski’s own real estate in Hawkins County and my opponent and her boyfriend are realtors.”

Hicks said no problems have developed at his IT job since he joined the Legislature, and he will work with his staff to make sure neither job is compromised.

Hicks and his opponent will face off in an election, scheduled for Aug. 4.

In addition to his $65,000 a year job as technology director, Hicks makes an additional $20,884 per year as a legislator, said Tennessee General Assembly spokeswoman Connie Ridley

Contact Christopher Butler at chris@tennesseewatchdog.org 

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