Monday, May 20, 2013

Hey, Gov. Haslam — CEOs are Accountable to Shareholders, Right?

Posted By on Mon, May 20, 2013 at 5:07 AM

On Sunday, Tom Humphrey was talking about how Gov. Haslam is growing testy with the press.


Things haven't been going all that well for Gov. Bill Haslam's administration lately on the media attention front, so maybe it was understandable that he expressed irritation last week when asked about ties to an East Tennessee developer who benefited from recently passed legislation.

"I want to say something: You all's job is to ask questions, but it's also your job to get the answer right," he lectured reporters in the course of explaining why he is without fault in the situation. "Quite frankly, I think it's a disservice when people imply something's wrong when they know there's nothing wrong."

Humphrey goes on to point out that, of course, Haslam is trying to run the state like a business, "which must protect its secrets to be competitive in the free market. States compete with other states, you know."

So there's the contradiction of Haslam's administration — the media is somehow supposed to know when they have things wrong, but the governor thinks it's important for him to keep secrets. But you can't have it both ways. If you want people to know what's what, you can't keep it secret from them.

Being grilled by the media might not be fun for Haslam, but maybe this would be helpful for him: Imagine every state resident as a shareholder, and himself as the CEO of the state.

While it's fine to not want, say, Kentucky to know all our secrets as our competition, we all need to be on the same page internally. Everyone who has a stake in the company/state needs to know that the CEO is leading the company to the best of his abilities and not, say, just for instance, not paying attention while senior sales people dick over loyal customers and have to buy airplanes to make it right.

Not that we know any company with those problems. But I'm just saying: if there was, Haslam could meditate on that example and understand why Tennessee shareholders might be nervous about his wish that we'd just trust that he's doing the right thing — and that the state is being steered in the right direction.

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