Live from Music Row Friday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. – host Leahy welcomed Nashville attorney Jim Roberts to the newsmakers line to discuss the secret Nashville election committee meeting with Metro legal to stop the Taxpayer Protection Act referendum from appearing on the December fifth ballot.
Leahy: The big news late last night, there was a story breaking at The Tennessean. Nashville election Commission to Meet Behind Closed Doors Friday. That’s today. As they prepare to make a decision on whether to put referendum effort on the ballot. Either way, this is likely heading to court. Apparently Metro legal counsel is meeting behind closed doors secretly with the Nashville election commission.
Now we have Jim Roberts on the line. Jim is the guy who put together the petition for the Nashville Taxpayer Protection Act. Verified a couple of weeks ago by the Nashville Election Commission. They said now we are going to go the Metro Clerk and put it on the ballot back then but now whoa! Metro legal is trying to change their mind. Jim, what on earth is going on here?
Roberts: Good morning sir. I have to correct you one thing, We have actually gotten over 26,000 signatures. A little correction there.
Leahy: That’s a big correction. You only needed 11,000.
Roberts: That’s about right. We need about 11,000. And they are still coming in. I opened up a stack of petitions that came in today that I appreciate, although they came in after the deadline.
Carmichael: That’s good though.
Leahy: Why is there another secret meeting today after the Nashville Election Committee according to the charter that they followed the law and that there are more than 11,000 verified signatures and gave it to the clerk’s office to put on the ballot? But now there is a secret meeting with the mayor who is trying to stop this legitimate action of the people of Nashville. What is going on Jim?
Roberts: I think we are running pretty close to violations of the Open Meetings Act. I will say that they are a board or a commission like that is allowed to meet and listen to lawyers but they are not allowed to discuss the matter. If they are going to have any discussion about what they are doing it has to be in public. It is a secret meeting but they are allowed some confidentialities. The real issue here is what’s going on with the mayor’s office.
I think you’ve heard there was a citywide shakedown of Metro employees. The word has gone out that hysteria and that the world is going to collapse. It’s pretty clear that the administration is going to try to fool people and intimidate people in this ballot initiative.
That’s the real tragedy. I promise you, they are just sitting around pulling their hair out thinking of some ways to stop this and they can’t. Not legally. That doesn’t mean they won’t try, but they can’t legally stop it and they know it.
Carmichael: Jim, what could be the possible reason? I’ve accepted the fact that Mayor Cooper is corrupt to the core and he doesn’t mind hurting 10s of 1,000s of people and destroying lives. That’s what we now know based on the facts. What possible basis could the election commission use because it’s the election commission that the mayor would have to persuade to change their minds? What could they possibly look to justify a change?
Roberts: They can’t. The Tennessee law is very clear that when something like this is proposed, and the reality is it may or may not pass. Obviously I think it’s going to pass. But because there is no certainty that it will pass or not, but the courts have never intervened in this type of case because it may be moot. There is no case to have right now. All they are trying to do is suppress the voters. And it may or may not pass. That’s a reality. We think it will. But there is nothing there to litigate there. Metro legal or the mayor is trying to do is just intimidate.
Leahy: It’s intimidation.
Roberts: It’s to intimidate Metro employees.
Leahy: This is about intimidation. Let me get your reaction to this. The Tennesseean reporter (Inaudible talk) broke this story last night and said in the lead paragraph that either way this referendum is likely heading to court. Why would she say that?
Roberts: I think that the reality is that governments don’t like giving up power. Mayor Cooper has treated this protest against his tax increase like we were just a bunch of lowlife serfs that he could just walk all over. And I think he’s finally come to the realization that is about to bite him in the tail end.
So they are going to litigate. The government doesn’t give up power easily. Now it’s all ego as much as anything. They don’t want to give up this money. They want to spend your money. They didn’t need the money. They lied to you to get your money. They know the money is not needed.
Leahy: Will the Mayor’s metro legal office litigate to stop the referendum on December 5th?
Roberts: I don’t think they can. I think they are trying to figure out a way to do it but there is no legal way to do it. If they try they will be wasting our tax dollars again on a frivolous effort. But they are desperate. You have to understand that they are completely desperate because they know how angry people are about this.
Carmichael: Now that the facts are out the people of Nashville are going to be even angrier.
Roberts: Oh. Absolutely.
Carmichael: There has always been a certain amount of cronyism in the Nashville government. I get that. But Cooper has taken it to a whole new level with what he’s doing to people. You have to wonder mentally why on earth would somebody knowingly for no good reason destroy 10s of 1,000s of lives and potentially over 1,000 businesses and lives based on a lie.
I don’t understand how somebody, and I don’t understand why anybody in the Metro government with good people and this mayor is not. I can’t imagine that the Metro employees are going to be cowed by somebody that they serve who is a known liar. Let me say this. If John Cooper were head of any publicly-traded company the board would have fired him yesterday. It would have been immediate.
Leahy: Jim Roberts, what do you think is the most likely outcome of this secret meeting today when the Metro legal council is to apparently going to bully, persuade, and intimidate the Nashville election commission to reverse course and take this December fifth referendum to take the 34 percent tax increase off the ballot? What is the most likely outcome?
Roberts: I don’t think they will be intimidated. I think the election commission is smart enough to do. I’ve actually sued the election commission for doing illegal stuff. They know that if they don’t follow the law they will be sued. Period. And so it’s not to their advantage unless Cooper is able to intimidate them. You mentioned that you don’t understand.
Truthfully I understand why Cooper lied about the COVID numbers. Look at the press releases and the things the mayor’s office is putting gout and talking about Nashville’s historically low tax rate. You’ve heard that in several different things. They don’t want a low tax rate. That is not in their best interest. They want this tax rate to be high. They made the decision. (Inaudible tax)
Carmichael: They shut it down to lower the revenue on purpose. They are hurting 10s of 1,000s of people on purpose. You are a lawyer. Mike and I play one on Saturday night. (Laughter) But you are a lawyer. Is there any point at which a public official abuses his or her office so badly that they become personally liable?
Roberts: Truthfully I had that very specific discussion last evening with another lawyer and I think that we’ve actually crossed that point. Up until now, Mayor Cooper had a good bit of power from an emergency standpoint. Recognized power.
But the revelations that come from these emails show that he intentionally harmed individuals and businesses for political gain. That is illegal. People can go to jail for that. People can get sued for that. And he very may well have crossed the line with those emails. I’ve been in trial for two weeks. I’ve not studied that. I’ve been busy.
Leahy: Jim Roberts, thanks for all your time and for coming on the program. come back next Friday and tell us the next twists and turns on this story.
Roberts: I’ll do it.
Listen to the third hour here:
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Photo “Downtown Nashville” by Ron Cogswell CC2.0