State Says Funk Also Got Health Insurance

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Tennessee prosecutors are reporting two of their own for an investigation of possible wrongdoing.

It follows a NewsChannel 5 investigation that first exposed a deal to help new Davidson County District Attorney General Glenn Funk get a better pension.

And, now, NewsChannel 5 Investigates has discovered that Funk also may have improperly arranged for the state to pay for his health insurance before he took office.

"These are taxpayer dollars, and someone needs to answer for these allegations," said Senate Judiciary Chairman Brian Kelsey, R-Germantown, who is demanding an explanation.

Kelsey pledged that his committee would not approve the budget of the Tennessee District Attorneys General Conference, the state agency that supports the state's prosecutors, until its questions are answered.

Last week, the Conference's executive committee sent a letter to state auditors in the Comptroller's Office, notifying them of the pension deal.

That deal -- to create a state job for Funk so he could qualify for a more lucrative pension -- was arranged by Wally Kirby, the executive director of the DA's Conference. Funk acknowledged to NewsChannel 5 that Kirby did it for him "as a favor."

"It is our opinion that this could be viewed as an abuse of public money ... and therefore we are making this report," said the letter written by the Conference president, District Attorney General Garry Brown of Trenton.

 

 

Funk declined to comment for this story.

The veteran defense attorney won the Democratic primary last May -- and he faced no opposition in the August general election.

But his term did not begin until September 1st.

That was two months after the state would switch - on July 1st - to a new pension plan that required employees to contribute more toward their retirements.

So Kirby created a job for Funk, putting him on the state payroll right before the deadline, supposedly as a district attorney pro tem -- in other words, a special prosecutor.

"The district attorneys conference found a way to do that, so we did it," Funk told NewsChannel 5 Investigates.

"Found a way to help you get the good pension?" we asked.

"Get the better pension, yeah," he acknowledged.

NewsChannel 5 Investigates asked, "Is that gaming the system?"

"It's working within the system," Funk replied.

Funk was assigned just one case to review -- one out of Rutherford County -- but he never presented it to a grand jury.

He told NewsChannel 5 -- as well as his staff in an internal email -- that he was preparing to present it to the September term of the Rutherford County Grand Jury when another prosecutor was suddenly assigned.

But Rutherford County DA Jennings Jones told NewsChannel 5 Investigates that he asked for another special prosecutor to be appointed after getting complaints that nothing was happening on the case.

Another prosecutor wasn't actually appointed until December 2014, records show.

NewsChannel 5 has learned that, after becoming aware of the deal between Kirby and Funk, the executive committee that oversees the agency met just over a week ago for what several participants say was an "intense discussion."

Not only did they vote to send the letter sent to state auditors, they also notified the board that regulates the ethics of Tennessee lawyers.

In addition, every DA from across Tennessee has been summoned to what has been described as a "mandatory meeting" on Tuesday to discuss what to do next.

On top of that, NewsChannel 5 Investigates has now discovered that Funk not only got the better pension, he also arranged for taxpayers to pick up the tab for his health insurance effective July 1st -- a full two months before he took office.

 

 

A spokesperson for the state Benefits Administration tells NewsChannel 5 that he was listed as a full-time employee.

In fact, during that same time period, our investigation had discovered that Funk was continuing to take money from criminal suspects to represent them while he waited to take office.

"You were not working full-time as a prosecutor?" we asked.

"No, I was not working full-time as a prosecutor," he admitted.

But NewsChannel 5 Investigates obtained a form that the DA's conference submitted to pension officials -- signed by Funk himself -- that listed him as a full-time employee.

Wally Kirby blamed one of his staff for checking the wrong box.

And while that made no difference in his pension, state rules suggest Funk would not have been approved for health insurance if he had not claimed he was a full-time state employee.

 

 

State officials have, so far, not divulged whether Funk had an individual plan or a more expensive family plan.

Related stories:
NC5 Investigates: The DA's Deals

Review documents related to DA investigation

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