Jul 14 2012
09:25 am

Georgiana Vines files this report about a fundraiser for Becky Duncan-Massey and Harry Brooks at the home of a couple with some previous legal troubles. (The report also says Mark Padgett has a new job.)

ShineTheLight's picture

Reader comments more interesting than the newspaper article

Wow! If anyone hasn't had a chance to cruise by Georgiana's piece, I encourage you to do so. The comments are very interesting. These people sound like real pieces of work. (link...)

R. Neal's picture

Comments over there appear to

Comments over there appear to be disabled. Do not disturb the Duncan Borg.

reform4's picture


If they've disabled comments, then Jack REALLY needs to be taken to task over that one. This has nothing to do with someone dying, being killed, or having marital trauma. That's really beyond the pale.

reform4's picture

To JackM, JackL cc: Georgiana (sent via email)

Sorry, but I have to take you to task for disabling comments on the Georgiana's story on the Duncan-Massey fundraiser.


While many people have (rightly) made the argument where comments should be disabled for stories that involve tragic accidents, deaths, or marital distress, Georgiana's story falls into NONE of those categories. There is NO VIABLE reason to disable the comments, other than to protect the politically powerful Duncan family.

At the bottom of the comments, Jack Lail says "these comments have turned into gossip and rumormongering". I call bull***t. Let's check the topics of some of the comments:

Discussion of the Duncan's holding fundraisers when they are unopposed, in particular JD,Jr, who can keep the money (and making the argument that contributions are now bribery). Although the commenter is incorrect in saying it can be used as a retirement fund, it can be kept as PAC money or used to create a charity that pays the retired Congressman a salary, so it's not entirely incorrect.
Discussions of the Ball's legal and tax problems, based on the reported facts in the article.
Some people defending the Ball's legal/tax problems (providing balance)
Someone providing some factual research on the Ball's companies and their organization
Two posts with 'gossip' about marital difficulties, but as they relate to their legal case.

Two posts out of 44 that could be considered gossip, and presented pretty clinically. Nothing said that was really nasty.

That's it? Jak (L), do you READ the comments section of OTHER stories? This comment thread was one of the nicest ones the KNS has!
Commenters aren't reporters, and holding them to the same standards of your reporters is- well, very inconsistent, given the history of the comments section. Jack L's statement is hogwash, and I don't buy his rationale for closing down the comments. This decision is a very distressing one and undermines the integrity of the news side of the paper. It makes it look like someone in power made a call, and KNS jumped like a lapdog.

It would help if KNS had a clear and sensible policy regarding comments. And I don't think this thread would meet the standard for closing comments, unless KNS made the decision to the comment feature entirely for all stories.

fischbobber's picture

Jimmy's campaign money

Much of Jimmy's money is grandfathered for other uses beyond current legal standards. I know the law changed, and I know he had a huge war chest at the time, but now that you bring it up, the details of the whole thing would be fascinating at this time.

It's certainly juicier than the mayor's divorce.

reform4's picture

The reality is

The comments that were halted had nothing to do with JD or BMD per SE, but the legal problems of the Balls. It's kind of like the various stories of the past trying to tie Cliton, Obama, etc to the legal problems of their contributors. The reality is, most candidates don't know that about or vet their contributors.

But apparently what's good for the goose isn't suitable for the gander.

ShineTheLight's picture

Did State do Homework Before Granting Provisional License?

After reading several articles about HR Comp, its aliases, and Chris and Andrea Ball, it really begs the question: Did the Department of Insurance and Commerce do a thorough investigation and background check on these people before issuing HR Comp a provisional license? If not, then why? Can the Department of Insurance and Commerce be held responsible if it is discovered that this company has not operated in a lawful and ethical manner.
Suppose this company operates in full compliance with the law effective today, does that magically erase any indiscretions that may have occurred yesterday? 3 months ago? How about a year ago?
To quote Becky Duncan Massey in a recent article, "I feel like the more information people can have the better." Meanwhile, the Department of Insurance and Commerce may have some tough questions ahead of them, like "What did you know?" and "When did you know it?"

rikki's picture

bigger issue

I'd say the bigger issue is not TDIC and their licensing practices but the fact that the statute regulating the Ball's business was completely rewritten this year. The bill, now public chapter 1081, was sponsored by Brentwood Senator Jack Johnson and Knoxville Rep. Ryan Haynes. I can't find any donations the Balls have made to state candidates, but acting as bundlers/hosts would seem more their style. It's not just TDIC that has been helping them out.

Roscoe Persimmon's picture

Guest of a supporter who owes the USA $3.5 million in taxes

Why in the world would a sitting Congressman be the guest of the principles of a business that owes the United States of America $3.5 million in taxes, mostly employment taxes related to temporary employees assigned to other employers in the area.

Where does Duncan get his politial advice? Why in the world BDM would accept campaign money from this event remains questionable? Are these the type folks that have influence and persuasion for the Duncans?


ShineTheLight's picture

PAC Money and Campaign Contributions

On 9/30/2011, Christopher Ball donated $1500 to American Staffing Association Staffing PAC and listed his employer as HR Comp . In Georgiana Vines column, Andrea Ball stated that "her husband is not part of the business." October 8, 2011, Christopher and Andrea Ball each donated to Mark Padgett's failed mayoral campaign .

TennMan50's picture

Despicable me

Were we reading the same article? They gave false statements to the State. That in itself is tantamount to a crime. If the State wished to prosecute, the Balls have already given the strongest form evidence...admission of guilt.

"Nice folks"? All I could see in the article was $3.5 million tax lien, false statement, not of good moral character, and $10k fine. I guess their money spends just fine though.

Sounds to me their investment in getting a lobbyist like Tom Ingram was well spent. U.S. Rep. John J. Duncan Jr. just released a statement ((link...)) where he condemned Mark Rich's pardon of tax evasion on the basis that the pardon was granted because Rich made political contributions. The word he used was "despicable".

So spending of unpaid tax dollars on political campaign fundraisers is ok in the eyes of all involved?

Shame on everyone involved with this couple for ignoring all the signs. They are not paying their taxes but have the means to host a party and make contributions to political campaigns?

Despicable indeed.

Wouldntyoulike2know's picture


Well said!

Pam Strickland's picture

It seems to me that the

It seems to me that the appropriate thing would have been to remove the gossipy posts and leave comments open. But Lail is doing the easier thin. He's done that a couple of times lately onmy column. Instead of taking time to look at individual comments, he's opted to shut down comments when monitoring the comments has gotten to be too labor intensive.

JCB's picture

"he's opted to shut down

"he's opted to shut down comments when monitoring the comments has gotten to be too labor intensive."

Yeah, labor intensive. Like checking spelling or editing. What you mean is lazy. There is no excuse for shutting down the comments.

Pam Strickland's picture

You're acting like a knoxnews

You're acting like a knoxnews commenter now. How about sticking to the topic.?

AnonymousOne's picture

Maybe Pam could write an

Maybe Pam could write an eiditorial on how online publishing is "labor intensive."

"Eidtorial: Grins and Grimaces
Posted February 23, 2013 at 3 a.m.
A look at recent events in the news that pleased us "


By the time you read this, it may have been changed, but Scripps should fire McElroy over that error alone. What an embarrassment.

jmcnair's picture

al-Adha or al-Fitr?

What's an "eiditorial?" Sounds Mooslim to me.

Sandra Clark's picture

The story

Kudos to GV for digging out this story.

I had a mental flick when receiving an invite to a big political event in Powell at the home of somebody I'd never heard of. Should have asked who these folks are.

But then, so should have JJD, BDM and Harry Brooks. -- s.

alan swartz's picture


Did you watch the gentle rebuke you got today in the Commission Workshop from Finance Director Chris Caldwell about your column in today's Shopper?

I have never seen anyone so nice finding a way to say that someone didn't know what they were talking about.

A bit of advice about falling on swords, you're only suppose to do it once. If you do it weekly, your credibility suffers.

If you did watch today, I'm guessing Mike Brown is next on the hit list.

Wouldntyoulike2know's picture

Their response

Apparently the Balls have a different take on the article. They actually posted it on their facebook page.

Here was their comments:
HR Comp Employee Leasing provides a valuable service to our clients and we work hard at being a responsible and engaged member of the business community. This year we worked with the National Association of Professional Employer Organizations (NAPEO) to pass modernization legislation in Tennessee to create more equitable oversight of the industry and to more clearly define the regulations. Members of our team spent many days in Nashville talking with lawmakers about our industry and how it helps Tennessee’s small businesses thrive and grow. Because of those efforts, we were invited by NAPEO to attend a signing ceremony with Governor Haslam.

Now those efforts and our continued success in the marketplace have apparently caused some of our competitors to engage the media in an attempt to disparage our reputation. We choose to win in the marketplace by offering a great product and superior service.

They were invited but I assume they missed the original article where the Govenor seemed embarrassed and stated that he nor none of his staffers know who invited them.

Joe328's picture

Tennessean breaks the news

I've noticed that several stories of corrupt government in our local area are taken from the Tennessean. The contractor that went bankrupt on the UT sorority houses received an unlimited contractors licenses in 2009. Five years earlier he was licensed as a car salesman at Hay's Nissan.

What happened to investigative journalism in Knoxville?

alan swartz's picture

"What happened to

"What happened to investigative journalism in Knoxville?"

The Knoxville Journal went out of business.

ShineTheLight's picture

Re: Investigative Journalism

Well said Joe328! The media should be embarrassed for not looking into this story. The Department of Insurance and Commerce should be taken to task for issuing this company a license in the first place, albeit provisional given its track record. The politicians accepting contributions and gifts (i.e. party) from these people should be made to explain themselves and their relationship. Does an honest businessperson with nothing to hide really need a Spin-doctor lobbyist to address "an old situation?" What is that old situation? Is anyone asking? WAKE UP INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALISTS!

Sandra Clark's picture

had another meeting today

but recorded the commission workshop to watch tonight.

What part of $17.3 million surplus don't they understand?

alan swartz's picture

What part of $17.3 million surplus don't they understand?

Chris Caldwell has doubts about the "surplus". Sandra, the schools just got more money than ever. 250 or so people believe in this crusade. The rest of us are not happy with this little war or McIntyre. You really going to throw down on something that the vast majority of people really don't like? I don't think the majority of people on KnoxViews are sold on McIntyre or this last school budget fiasco. You are usually better at forecasting where the wind is blowing from.

Oh well. Let us know how you like Mike Brown's comments.

50 cents wasted's picture

Winning in the Marketplace, Really?

If you don't pay your federal income taxes, yes it is very easy to win in the marketplace, it puts you in a position to offer services with pricing schedules which are unrealistic and not in keeping with the costs associated with such services.

The local gas station could sell gas at $2.30 a gallon and have people lined up to fill up the tank, but if they did not collect and remit the .70 something cents per gallon state and federal fuel taxes on that gallon of gasoline, eventually he'd be out of business or trying to hold a fund raiser for Jimmy Duncan to get the federal taxing authorities to work up a payment arrangement of some type.

Anytime people are "working on legislation to improve something" watch out, they are up to something and it is usually wallet driven.

Tamara Shepherd's picture


Alan, speaking only for myself as someone among the some/many/most KV regulars who opposed that KCS budget, my opposition had nothing whatsoever to do with any thought that KCS already had all the money they needed.

It had everything to do with my concern for some line item allocations within that budget.

I didn't want to see some of those expenditures result in practices I didn't think should become entrenched in KCS.

Okay, I'll go out on a limb and tell you that I'm pretty darned sure folks like Stick, jcgrim, Min, and RNeal saw the same danger in allowing those practices to become entrenched--and they can correct me if I'm wrong.

Anyway, start another thread on the topic. It has nothing to do with this fundraiser hosted by the Balls.

(Cordial nod to Sandra.)

ShineTheLight's picture

McPeak to Visit Knoxville

How about asking state Commerce and Insurance Commissioner Julie Mix McPeak how HR Comp was ever issued any sort business license, provisional or otherwise?

HR Comp was recently in the news when it was revealed that HR Comp had a $3.5 million federal tax lien, paid a $10,000 fine, and admitted to operating a business without a license. The initial business license was rejected when Andrea Ball submitted false statements to the TDIC. Ball was described in a state document as "not of good moral character." HR Comp is an employee leasing company entrusted to submit payroll taxes and pay worker's compensation insurance premiums for each of its employees on its clients' behalf.

This story came to light when Christopher and Andrea Ball posed in a photo with Governor Haslam as he signed into law a new statute governing the operation of staff leasing companies (link...)....

The Balls hosted a fundraiser at their home for Becky Duncan-Massey and Harry Brooks on July 14. The guest of honor was U.S. Representative Jimmy Duncan. (link...)....

On July 11, 2012 Jimmy Duncan referred to tax evaders "despicable" (link...)...

Readers criticized Jack Lail for closing discussions about Vines' article rather than removing specific posts. The topic was continued by R. Neal readers at KnoxViews (link...)...

How does a company with a fiduciary responsibility to submit payroll taxes for its clients amass a $3.5 million federal tax lien? And how, Ms. McPeak, on your watch, did TDIC ever grant HR Comp a provisional business license?

I'm posting discussion here in the event this very commentary is censored by KNS.

anon_forever's picture

SPG raided by FBI and IRS

Another PEO like the one Ms. Ball owns was raided by the FBI yesterday. Interestingly enough, Ms. Ball claims to have help start this company that was raided and then was fired later. You have to wonder if this company is under further scrutiny by the state and other agencies.

anon_forever's picture

Bumping this comment because

Bumping this comment because someone needs to be investigating all of these companies in Knoxville.

c16's picture

Update to the story

KnoxNews finally did a little digging and the results are interesting.

Read more about Andrea Ball and HR Comp here:


danandrews's picture

Some major developments are happening in this saga

A couple major developments are happening in this ongoing saga.

If anyone in the media has been following the civil trials, you will find a lot of interesting names and interesting developments.

This has nothing to do with Massey or Brooks. At the time, they placed about as many firewalls in as little time as possible to distance themselves from this mess and should be commended for that.

At this time I am recommending that all media place this saga on a hyper alert media watch list.

More to come, this is fluid at this time.

danandrews's picture

Welcome to the beginning of Acid Reign...

First off credit to my good friend Jack Mcelroy for having the guts and passion for great journalism and for putting the people first. Stay with me and grab some popcorn cause this is where it finally gets good!

For the last three years, I have been following a story, that has and continues to demand and highlight the need for answers. Many people in powerful positions have benefited greatly. However, when the money was too were they. In this blog post I am going to try to highlight just how important this case is.

I am also going to give the reader an opportunity to continue to have long deep investigative journalism, and I will highlight what I believe is where "Acid Reign" is now, or where it needs to be.

Before I begin, I would seriously like to give credit to the author who wrote the article below. The multi-talented, award-winning, ass kicking overworked Jamie Satterfield. To the trolls who complain when she gets a word wrong. Shut the heck up! She is working the job of three reporters.

Okay first read this article

Folks, Jack could have very easily buried this article or not run it at all.


First, we will start off with the respected NewsChannel 5 Team Investigation...

Next, read these articles but make sure you pay close attention to the comments.

and this...

Now, here is a link that is very confusing but does have a number of photos that have become hard to find.

Soo many questions, but the ultimate question is what actions will come from the Haslam Administration? Will, our state legislation call for an independent audit?

Go to the News Channel 5 article

Then in July 2012, Durham complained to Cate about a specific "fraud investigator" with the state.

She was concerned about the "level of surveillance" on the Balls company.

Cate asked to be "kept in the loop."

You can find those emails right here

So many lives destroyed. Folks when I say destroyed, I mean absolutely destroyed!

"Fourth, he fell victim to a system that incentivizes cutting
costs at the expense of worker safety and health. David
lived, worked, and was killed in the East Bay, but was
technically employed by a company clear across the
country, in Tennessee. HR Comp LLC, his employer,
advertises itself as providing payroll and workers’
compensation services to streamline employers’ core
activities—this is code for outsourcing safety training
and personnel costs. Perhaps this makes sense for a
small company starting out. That company is not Henkel,
which was founded in the late 1800s and employs
27,000 workers worldwide. Simply put, Henkel was
saving money, maximizing profit. It was taking a gamble,
with others’ lives as collateral."

Follow the Money!

good stuff

As we look at the 2013 Directory, we see three different companies all with very similar names listed as premiere partners. Search for "Andrea Ball"

In the coming days, if I can get the funding, I will be reporting on just how destructive this whole thing has become.


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