No. 11: Where's Lee? (July 22 - July 28)

Go west, young man! (

Remember how last week Gov. Bill Lee skipped his one and only event in Nashville, after several days of things that are definitely not, nope, not at all! campaign events being paid for by taxpayers? Well, no one can ask him questions this week either — that is, unless they happen to be in Aspen or Salt Lake City hanging out with other governors. Really hope someone gets the expense reports on that Aspen stay quickly!


GOVERNOR LEE’S MEDIA SCHEDULE FOR JULY 22, 2019 – JULY 28, 2019

Monday, July 22 – Tuesday, July 23

Republican Governors Association Meeting

Aspen, Colorado

Wednesday, July 24 – Friday, July 26

National Governors Association Summer Meeting

Salt Lake City, Utah

Saturday, July 27

No public events

Sunday, July 28

No public events


In other news, U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Memphis) has ostensibly unblocked everyone he had blocked on Twitter, according to the Commercial Appeal this afternoon. (It’s worth noting I couldn’t find the story featured on the CA website, only on the Tennessean … what?) The great unblocking came in response to the ruling of an appeals court, which agreed with several other courts that have also ruled Donald Trump’s official presidential account can’t block people on Twitter, because there’s this crazy thing called the First Amendment and also FOIA, et al.

That ruling coincidentally came a day after I reported that state legislators have been instructed to stop blocking people on social media by the legislative attorney. Yet I remain blocked by Sen. Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown) — he just had a baby so I will briefly give him a pass — and Rep. Jay D. Reedy (R-Erin), who is running a longshot bid to be the next House Speaker. (He does not get a pass.) There might be more, too, so if you’ve been blocked, please let me know

Speaking of Kelsey and blocking, to the best of my recollection he blocked me because I reported on the shady campaign finance dealings of his (former?) buddy, expelled Franklin Rep. Jeremy Durham. You know, the door-knocking that got me arrested because my phone stopped recording? Unsurprisingly, Durham remains under a federal investigation that, just like my first post here about Cade Cothren and Glen Casada trying to screw over Justin Jones, would not have launched without me being the first person to get that part of the story (no matter how many times Joel Ebert and his editors tell themselves otherwise).

In a related manner, the state has finally accused Sen. Joey Hensley (R-Hohenwald) of unethically prescribing “controlled substances” to “a patient … who was also an employee and with whom he was having a personal relationship.” This patient was Hensley’s second cousin, who, while married to the vice-mayor of Hohenwald, had an affair with Hensley, despite being a nurse in his practice and also his longtime patient — which, on its own, setting aside drugs and family relations, is prohibited for physicians to do. As I wrote in March 2017:

[Lori] Barber testified in court that Hensley is her only doctor other than a cardiologist, and that she relies on him for recurrent Botox injections. She also said he has regularly prescribed her the hydrocodone-acetaminophen pill Lortab — a Schedule II controlled substance — for “chronic back pain,” which she said Hensley first diagnosed after she hurt her neck. 

Court testimony and documents filed imply that Barber has possibly abused both alcohol and opioids; she testified that she has no problem with either and any uptick in consumption was due to the stress of the divorce. But in her deposition, Barber was asked by her husband’s lawyer, Rose Palermo, “And didn’t your parents come to you and say that this situation with the Lortab had to be reined in, because you were taking too many Lortabs?” Barber replied, “I was taking too many according to them, but I was taking exactly what I was prescribed.” Palermo followed up, “By Dr. Hensley?” Barber answered, “Yes.”

When asked last week if he often provides his nurses with opioid prescriptions, Hensley said he treats all his patients “the same” and declined further comment. On Monday, when asked if it concerned him that a nurse in his employ had been somewhat frequently taking hydrocodone, Hensley replied, “She’s a patient of mine, and anything I treat a patient with is [protected by] HIPAA.” She’s a patient, but she’s also an employee, the Scene said. “Well, it’s a small town. People don’t have an option for some things,” Hensley said.

It is a clear violation of the American Medical Association’s code of ethics — to which the Tennessee Board of Medical Examiners subscribes — for a doctor to become romantically involved with a patient. It is also in violation of the state board’s guidelines to regularly treat immediate family members or prescribe them drugs. The policy states, in part, “Treatment of immediate family members should be reserved only for minor illnesses or emergency situations. … No schedule II, III or IV controlled substances should be dispensed or prescribed except in emergency situations.” But there are no AMA or state guidelines that specifically prohibit doctors from treating employees.

Although, for once the Tennessean did actually link to the Scene piece, the writing around my reporting by several outlets has been very squishy, as if I didn’t actually sit through the divorce trial or have every single court filing (and also depositions that weren’t filed in court). As if I wasn’t a professional.

Well, some of my reporting really does get results. And you’re absolutely going to want to read my next piece, all 2500-ish words of it. Check your email this weekend, y’all. Or, just, go west, young man.


Reminder: I’m on Venmo @cgervin until subscriptions start (really soon!) if you want to help fund this reporting. More importantly, if you want to throw reporting tips my way, you can reply to this email; DM me on Twitter or Facebook; message me on Signal or Confide; or call or text me.


Correction: I misspelled Hohenwald in my original email. Apologies to all Lewis County residents, current, former and future. And please do always let me know when I have typos, so I can fix them.