County Chief of Staff and Parks Director on Leave Pending Investigation
County Mayor Glenn Jacobs did not provide details of the outside inquiry but promised transparency when it is concluded.
by jesse fox mayshark • october 14, 2020
UPDATED 6:30 p.m. 10/14/20 with statement from County Commission Chair Larsen Jay.
Bryan Hair, chief of staff to Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs and one of the highest-paid employees in county government, has been placed on administrative leave with pay pending an internal investigation, along with Paul White, the county’s senior director of Parks and Recreation.
The investigation is being conducted by the county's external auditors.
In a statement released Wednesday in response to questions from Compass, Jacobs said, “In the interest of transparency, I believe a thorough and speedy investigation is vital. My priority continues to be the business of Knox County.”
Hair and White were placed on administrative leave on Tuesday. Jacobs did not say why they were under investigation, with the statement specifying only that the mayor was “made aware of potential wrongdoing.” The accounting firm Pugh CPAs, the county’s external auditor, is conducting the inquiry.
County Communications Director Mike Donila said, “When the investigation is concluded, at that point we’ll answer all questions.”
In response to a text message, Hair wrote, “I appreciate the mayor launching this investigation and I will fully cooperate. I’m looking forward to getting back to work.”
Hair has been Jacobs’ right-hand adviser since the professional wrestler’s grassroots campaign in 2018, which somewhat unexpectedly landed him in the county mayor’s office. An MBA with a background in banking and politics, Hair served as Jacobs’ transition director and then was appointed as chief of staff when Jacobs took office.
White is a former co-worker of Hair’s at Tennessee State Bank and was brought in by Jacobs as senior parks director. He did not have previous parks and recreation experience. Hair’s brother, Brad, also serves as the mayor’s executive assistant.
Donila confirmed that Dwight Van de Vate, the county’s community development director and a longtime county employee, is for the moment helping out in the mayor’s office to handle some of Hair’s administrative and managerial duties.
The investigation is expected to take up to several weeks.
In the most recent county salary database, Bryan Hair is listed as making $170,635.66 a year. White’s salary is $115,823.76.
Hair is a graduate of Carson-Newman University who earned an MBA at the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga in 2015, according to his LinkedIn profile. He worked in Washington, D.C., for a year as a “leadership engagement coordinator” with AIPAC, the powerful Israeli lobbying group.
He then moved back to Tennessee in 2007 and went into banking, working for several area lending companies until ending up at Tennessee State Bank, where he was a vice president and commercial banker. White was also a vice president at Tennessee State Bank at the same time.
In a statement Wednesday afternoon, County Commission Chair Larsen Jay said, "I commend Mayor 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."