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Mayor's Office declines release of info about golf cart borrowed by chief of staff

According to the Mayor's Office, Bryan Hair and parks chief Paul White were put on leave while a review about potential wrongdoing is conducted.

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — UPDATE (OCT. 19): Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs' office is declining to release information sought by 10News about a county-owned golf cart that the chief of staff says he borrowed for several months this summer.

Bryan Hair is on administrative leave while an unspecified investigation is conducted into his conduct and that of Paul White, the county parks and recreation director.

Hair said in a statement Thursday night to 10News that the leave was imposed because he borrowed a county golf cart in May to help his wife, who had broken her foot. He kept the cart through the summer, he said, and then returned it.

Jacobs announced last week he was putting Hair and White on leave, but he didn't say specifically why. Jacobs only said he was looking into potential "wrongdoing."

Hair, as chief of staff, draws a $170,000 salary. He touted White as the man to hire to run the Parks and Recreation Department, and they are friends.

An accounting firm is helping to conduct an unspecified review.

On Friday, 10News filed a request for information about the cart -- when it was acquired, how much it cost, how it had been used in the past, if it had ever been lent out to anyone in the public before or only used by staff.

On Saturday, Deputy Communications Director Abbey Harris said the Mayor's Office couldn't release that information because of the ongoing investigation. 

PREVIOUS UPDATE: Facing a county investigation, the chief of staff for Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs said Thursday night in a statement he was placed on administrative leave this week due to a mistake he made over a borrowed county golf cart.

Bryan Hair issued a statement to 10News following Jacobs' announcement Wednesday that he was putting Hair and Paul White, the director of the Parks and Recreation Department, on leave while an accounting firm looks into potential "wrongdoing."

Hair told 10News he borrowed a taxpayer-owned golf cart in May from Parks and Recreation after his wife broke her foot. He helped White get the parks job.

Hair, who draws a six-figure public salary, said he reached out about the cart so his wife could get around.

"I was aware they had recently purchased carts for both Recreation and to use at the Festival of Lights to allow constituents that were unable to walk the paths the ability to ride," his statement reads.

The carts weren't being used by anyone at the time because recreation was shut down due to COVID-19, his statement reads.

He said he borrowed the cart through the summer until his wife's foot healed.

Sources tell 10News it was just recently returned.

"This was not only a mistake on my part, but a lapse in judgment," Hair said. "It was not wise for me to borrow something that belongs to the citizens of Knox County, and for that, I’m deeply sorry.”

Hair has been in Jacobs' administration since his 2018 election.

PREVIOUS STORY: Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs placed Chief of Staff Bryan Hair and Senior Director of Parks and Recreation Paul White on administrative leave, effective Tuesday, Oct. 13. 

According to a statement released by the county, Hair and White were placed on administrative leave after Jacobs was made aware of potential wrongdoing.

Jacobs brought in external auditing firm Pugh CPA to further evaluate the claims, the county said. The investigation could take several weeks.

“In the interest of transparency, I believe a thorough and speedy investigation is vital. My priority continues to be the business of Knox County," Mayor Glenn Jacobs said in a statement. 

Knox County Finance Director and Deputy Chief of Staff Chris Caldwell today asked for a meeting with the State Comptroller’s Office.

The county's community development director, Dwight Van de Vate, will help Caldwell handle Hair's duties during the investigation.

The county did not provide any additional comments. 

Knox County Commission Chair Larsen Jay said in a statement he commended Jacobs "for quickly initiating an independent investigation into this matter.

"While specific details are still being uncovered, I trust this investigation will be handled in a timely and transparent manner. All County officials found to have acted inappropriately should be held accountable. There’s nothing more important than earning and maintaining the public’s trust."