Thursday, November 16, 2023

Report: Tennessee's Lee and group spent $117K in Paris, Italy for TNECD trip

Gov. Bill Lee
By Jon Styf, The Center Square, Nov 13, 2023 - Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee spent more than $117,000
of taxpayer funds over a six-day economic development trip earlier this year, The Tennessean reported.

The group went to Paris and Bologna, Italy while promoting the Paris Air Show with a group that included six state employees, two of their wives and two members of the governor's security detail, the newspaper reported.

The newspaper reported that Lee and first lady Maria Lee spent $26,229, McWhorter spent $16,228.65, TNECD Deputy Commissioner Allen Borden spent $20,718.23, Senior Director of Business Development Chassen Hayes spent $19,888.02, Lee's Deputy Chief of Staff Alec Richardson spent $17,001.05 and Lee's Chief of Staff Joseph Williams spent $16,752.

Lee was one of 10 U.S. governors at the event. Lee's group stayed at a five-star hotel next to the Eiffel Tower while scheduling two days of free time in Paris, the newspaper reported.

Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner Stuart McWhorter was also on the trip while Virginia's Glenn Youngkin, Arkansas' Sarah Huckabee Sanders and Georgia's Brian Kemp were all in Paris as well.

"These European companies face the realities of high taxes and heavy regulations every day, and when they want to expand or relocate, our unmatched business climate and skilled workforce strategy place Tennessee at the top of their list," Lee said in a statement after the trip. "Economic development brings more good jobs and greater opportunity for Tennesseans, and I look forward to welcoming continued investment to our state from leading companies around the world."

The department said previously that more than 100 French and Italian companies operate in Tennessee and the pair visited Schneider Electric, Babynov, Puy du Fou and Valeo in France and Iris Ceramica Group and Gruppo Concorde in Italy.

The Tennessean requested documents and received 184 pages of fully redacted documents with the EDC's assistant general counsel telling the newspaper that the documents "reference confidential projects that are not yet subject to public records requests."

Talking points related to the trip were also redacted, the newspaper reported.

Rod's Comment: All I can say is that I hope we got our money's worth.

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