Press release from the Tennessee Republican Party; October 24, 2014:
NASHVILLE, Tenn.–The Tennessee Republican Party today sent a letter to Nashville Mayor Karl Dean regarding suspicious political activity that took place during yesterday’s early voting at the Bellevue Community Center.
The final version of the letter may be viewed here. The text of the letter appears below.
The Honorable Karl Dean
Metro Government of Nashville & Davidson County
1 Public Square #100
Nashville, Tennessee 37201
Mayor Karl Dean:
It appears Metro Nashville employees during the course of their work hours have been used for political purposes which, as you are aware, would constitute a blatant violation of the law.
During yesterday’s early voting hours at the Bellevue Community Center, 656 Colice Jeanne Road, Metro workers removed all the political signs for Republican candidates including Bill Haslam for Governor, Bob Reis for Congress, and Troy Brewer for State Representative, while leaving one candidate’s sign, Bo Mitchell for State Representative. When the worker was approached about the removal by an eyewitness, he said, “We got a call about this; there’s money involved.” The signs were removed from the Red Caboose Park and the Bellevue Community Center.
Jim Hester, a member of the staff of Metro Nashville’s Parks and Recreation division, admitted that the Parks and Recreation staff was responsible for taking the signs. He stated that Mr. Mitchell had reserved Red Caboose Park and that no political signs were allowed at the park. He failed to explain why Mr. Mitchell’s signs were left while every other campaign’s were removed from both Red Caboose Park and the Bellevue Community Center.
When asked to provide documentation about Mr. Mitchell’s reservation, he provided a document with hand-written rates for the park’s rental that total $600 for 5 days. A review of Mr. Mitchell’s campaign disclosures reveal he has only paid approximately $245 to Metro Nashville for reservations. Furthermore, park reservations are only available from 8am-5pm. Mr. Mitchell’s reservation according to his campaign social media page runs from 5pm-7pm and another date from 4pm-8pm. Why the discrepancy?
Given that Mr. Mitchell is a Metro Councilman who is a member of the Parks and Recreation council committee, which has direct oversight over the use and allocation of park resources, I find it hard to believe he is unaware of the rules for park use. In fact, this carries the appearance of an insider who was both cut a deal by Metro workers for use of the park and then used them to do his campaign’s bidding. There are a number of concerning issues I believe need to be addressed:
1. Why were all political signs, except for State Representative/Councilman Bo Mitchell’s signs, removed from the park and the Bellevue Community Center?
2. Were Metro employees paid by a campaign or a campaign’s surrogate to take down political signs?
3. Was Mr. Mitchell given a discount by Metro Parks and Recreation that is unavailable to other taxpayers?
4. Were Metro workers allowed to campaign on taxpayers’ time during work hours?
Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter.
Tennessee Republican Party
CC: Tre Hargett, Tennessee Secretary of State
Ronald Buchanan, Chairman, Davidson County Election Commission