Tennessee Veterans Services commissioner resigns after inquiry finds evidence of abusive, racist remarks

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Tennessee’s Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner of Veterans Affairs both resigned on Nov. 25, following separate human resources investigations, state Human Resources documents show.

A human resources investigation conducted in September and referred to the governor’s office found that former Commissioner Courtney Rogers engaged in abusive conduct against department employees and made racially derogatory comments. State employees filing the complaint are not named to protect their privacy.

On one occasion, a department employee riding in a car with the commissioner reported that Roberts yelled, “I’m sick of your stupid mouth! I’m going to quit and tell the Governor it’s all your fault!” According to the investigative report, Roberts said he did not recall the incident, but another witness who was in the car corroborated the story.

Other employees described being the subject of “excessive yelling,” “persistent criticism in front of subordinates,” “public degrading,” and “berating the employee in public,” the investigation report says. Rogers admitted to raising her voice, according to the report.

The investigation also found that Rogers made racially derogatory comments, including referring to a race of people as “prostitutes who slept their way into the United States.” Roberts did not deny making the statement.

An employee claimed that during a phone call with department leadership, Roberts used a racial slur while discussing a meeting on diversity and racial equity. The investigation corroborated the claim, according to the report. Roberts denied using the word in reference to a specific person, but recalled being incensed at the meeting after “all that Mr. [George] Floyd stuff.”

Gov. Bill Lee’s office announced Monday that Rogers will return to the private sector.

Tilman Goins, who served as deputy commissioner and chief operating officer of the Veterans Services department, also resigned from his position on Nov. 25.

A human resources investigation conducted in October and referred to the governor's office found that Goins violated the state employee code of conduct by engaging in an inappropriate romantic or sexual relationship with a subordinate employee.

Both Rogers and Goins previously served as Republican legislators in the state House of Representatives.

Rogers is the third state agency chief to resign since late October. Hodgen Mainda, who served as commissioner of commerce and insurance, resigned after a human resources investigation into allegations that he made unwanted sexual advances toward a female employee in February. Danielle Barnes, who was commissioner of the Department of Human Services, resigned the same day, returning to work in the private sector.

Major General Tommy Baker will serve as interim commissioner of Veterans Services, Lee’s office announced on Monday.

“Gen. Baker is a committed public servant and I thank him for his willingness to lead the Department of Veterans Services during this critical time for our state,” Lee said.

Baker most recently served as Deputy Adjutant General of the Tennessee National Guard.





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