Lawsuit Alleges Nashville Officials Trample on Property Rights

You break one of Metro Nashville’s codes and you either get punished or you get preferential treatment.

If you’re not chummy with any Metro officials, then you get punished.

But if you’re on the best of terms with these officials then you walk away clean.

This, according to a new lawsuit against the Metro Nashville Government, which says double standards exist.

Nashville resident John Haffner filed the suit at Nashville’s Sixth Circuit Court this month against the Metro Codes Department.

Haffner makes these accusations based off public records and emails he obtained between county officials, including Metro Council member Russ Pulley. The emails come from Pulley’s private account, which the lawsuit says he uses to conduct public business.

“Residents who have relationships with Metro Council Members and operate illegal in-home, for-profit businesses with on-site clients are able to receive fraudulent home occupation permits and a receptive Codes Department that is willing to clear [things] up for them,” Haffner said in the suit.

By contrast, Metro officials, including Pulley, target Haffner for prosecution, according to a copy of the lawsuit.

Specifically, Haffner said Metro Codes officials are after him for “operating a supposedly illegal in-home business” for profit, which goes against Metro code, even if a resident has a home occupation permit.

“At the same time—and during the prosecution of this very case— Plaintiff Metro Codes assisted the Defendant’s neighbor on the same street in obtaining a fraudulent home occupation permit to operate her unmistakably illegal, for-profit in- home tutoring business,” according to the lawsuit.

Pulley did not know about the lawsuit when The Tennessee Star contacted him. Pulley, after hearing the details, said the lawsuit has no merit.

“What you just stated to me is factually and not only completely inaccurate but a fabrication. That is absolutely not true,” Pulley said.

“I am aware of the fact that Haffner was involved in a codes violation. It is garbage. Aside from that I am not sure it is wise for me to comment on it, because I haven’t really looked at the lawsuit.”

Metro Codes official Emily Lamb is also mentioned in the suit.

In an emailed statement, Lamb told The Star the lawsuit’s claims “are false and misleading.”

“Metro’s response to the Motion to Dismiss will demonstrate that,” Lamb said.

“I can’t comment any further on the pending litigation.”

Haffner’s attorney, Daniel Horwitz, told The Star Friday in an emailed statement that big issues are at stake.

“The fact that the only way to run a home business with on-site clients in Nashville is to be friends with a Metro Councilman who can get Codes to turn a blind eye and issue a fraudulent permit is disgraceful,” Horwitz wrote.

“Property rights should not be reserved for elites who have political connections.  Every government bureaucrat who played a role in this selective enforcement and outright fraud should resign.”

Read the full lawsuit here.

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Chris Butler is an investigative journalist at The Tennessee Star. Follow Chris on Facebook. Email tips to [email protected]
Photo “Russ Pulley” by Russ Pulley. Background Photo “Davidson County Courthouse” by euthman. CC BY-SA 2.0.











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2 Thoughts to “Lawsuit Alleges Nashville Officials Trample on Property Rights”

  1. Horatio Bunce

    The motion to dismiss looks pretty compelling on both grounds. However, IF the defendant is in fact operating a “restaurant” in his residence, then the use (occupancy) of the building is changed, which requires permitting and quite probably alterations to meet codes for a business establishment and food service. The residential property probably isn’t properly zoned for commercial use either, but again Codes may turn a blind eye to a “non-profit”, even though that has nothing to do with the protection of life or property (the whole point of building codes).

    Haffner is going to lose the war (and so will his neighbors), but he should win this battle.

    The codes officials and council member should be called on their collusion. Another branch of Nashville government that doesn’t need oversight?

  2. 83ragtop50

    What a surprise (sarcasm)