Senator Jeff Miller Denies AWOL Charge

State Senator Jeff Miller (R-Cleveland) returned from the bedside of his injured grandmother to find that he had been maligned while away from session last week for a family spring break vacation. Miller’s trip was cut short by the news that his mother and grandmother had been involved in a head-on collision. His grandmother was airlifted to and is currently in the trauma care unit at the University of Tennessee Medical Center in Knoxville. His mother’s injuries were less severe.
Here is a statement from Senator Jeff Miller:
All of the media furor over my family’s spring break vacation was not fully made aware to me until my brief return to my Nashville office on Tuesday, March 30, 2004. I complied with Senate rules by requesting permission to go on spring break with my wife and children from Lt. Gov. John Wilder the week before my trip. Governor Wilder granted my request. Thinking I was going above and beyond the rules, I informed my Republican leadership of my intentions and asked that a bill I sponsor banning same sex civil unions that was mistakenly set for the Monday night session be postponed for one week when it had been originally planned for hearing.

My children were on spring break from school and I decided to go with them all week when the committee I chair was canceled for the week to make time for committees that were further behind than the Environment, Conservation and Tourism Committee. I made sure that there were no “key issues” with close votes to be considered on the floor of the Senate while I was to be gone. I was aware that some reporters were inquiring as to my wherabouts last week, but little did I realize such vicious terms as “AWOL” were being wrongfully hurled at me. To return work calls while on vacation defeats the purpose, so I did not accept nor attempt to make return calls after briefly talking to my hometown newspaper. I followed the rules and requested permission as many other Senators do when they are absent for various reasons. While my session attendance record is not perfect, it is very good.
I returned to news articles that ran statewide saying I did not follow the rules and I most certainly did. When I called Lt. Governor Wilder and asked if he remembered, he acknowledged our conversation. The story originated from John Commins who reports for the Chattanooga Times Free Press. Governor Wilder told me that Mr. Commins asked him two questions: “Do you know where Senator Miller is?” To which he replied, “no.” And, “Does that bother you?” To which the one word reply was, “no.” I never told Governor Wilder where I was going, only that it would be a trip with my family.
John Commins and The Chattanooga Times editorial board were extremely and unnecessarily critical. I am considered by most as a conservative legislator, and it has been written by several reporters in major media markets that I am considering a run for U.S. Congress should Rep. Zach Wamp decide to pursue higher office. I have noticed a negative slant on most of John Commins’ articles in which I am featured. And for whatever reasons, those in charge at The Chattanooga Times Free Press seem more than willing to try to “poison the well” for me in their market area. I can’t help but think there is a correlation. I am proud of my record while representing the 9th Senatorial district. But for something false and malicious to go onto my record wrongfully is not acceptable to me. I truly appreciate all of the words of support and encouragement that my office has received through this misunderstanding.


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