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Senior Advisor

Instead of building levees, today's government.....

Has more pressing needs.


snip- It's a state agency that's supposed to help meet the housing needs of the Tennessee's neediest families.

But a NewsChannel 5 investigation discovered the Tennessee Housing Development Agency also spends lots of money having fun.

They call it "employee development."

"We work together as a team, we play together as a team," agency spokesperson Patricia Smith insisted.

Our exclusive investigation discovered that the state housing agency spent tens of thousands of dollars having fun.

We caught up with longtime THDA executive director Ted Fellman.

"Can you say that you've used the public's money well?" NewsChannel 5 Investigates asked.

"Yes, sir," he answered.

While Fellman refused to sit down to answer our questions, photos of him in various costumes show how he has run the state agency with a style he summarized at a THDA function: "You've heard me say a lot of times, I don't want to work anywhere where it's not fun."

"It's a different way," Patricia Smith said. "Play is part of growing a good employee base."

In fact, Smith noted that, if you look at THDA's mission statement, having fun is one of the values officially approved by the agency's board.

"Can you not have fun without spending money?" we asked.

"Ask a teenager," she replied.

"But you all are not teenagers," we noted.

"We are not teenagers," she said, adding: "We do great work and we spend money on our employees to encourage them to be great employees."

So, this past summer, the entire office took off to go to Dave & Busters.

In addition to a full-course, lunch buffet, each employee also got $40 for video games or for bowling.

The total cost: $9,939.



For the big shindig last year, they rented out the Country Music Hall of Fame and hired a caterer.

The year before, it was the Loveless Barn.

The total cost of that event (including gifts): $26,261

"It is a lot of money," Smith acknowledged. "It includes training, it includes being together, it includes celebrating. We are not embarrassed by that."

2 Replies
Veteran Advisor

Re: Instead of building levees, today's government.....


I'd say there is room to cut government spending, but I know what I'd hear:


But, if you cut government spending by $26,000, you will have to fire a firefighter, policeman, or teacher?

Senior Contributor

Re: Instead of building levees, today's government.....

Those are definitely examples of misdirected funds and misuse of their budget. All funds should be directed towards their purpose. This kind of thing needs to be stopped immediately.


You heard the director mention "fun" at work. There's a whole training program called FISH (forget what that stands for, but I am sure it is an easy look-up) that is aimed at having fun at the workplace, but unlike this, you are supposed to actually work and are not entitled to perks at the businesses expense. For example an employer can hold a potluck at work, but the employees pay the expense and bring in food. This is fun and promotes a team concept. I think it is just as good as taking everyone out for a meal and likely would be better food all in all.


I would agree overall that things like these expensive activities are an important part of reducing the cost of government and the states need to be on the lookout for these things and eliminate them and redirect funding to where it should go. It's a simple matter to examine expense codes in budgets and ask questions of the agency directors. If a budget is excessive, it should be cut. All agencies should be required to turn in and account for detailed budgets that include expense codes for each type of operation. Furthermore, they should have to explain overages to any budget or account code as well as underages so that budgets can be adjusted accordingly.  I know that's complicated to people who's mentality is limited to "gut government," but it is what must be done as a starter. We have to know where we are and what we are spending before we know what can be cut.