Members of the Metro Nashville Election Commission met privately Friday, and at least one of the five commission members refused to say what they discussed, even though it was government business.
Nashville attorney Jim Roberts told The Tennessee Star Saturday that he suspects commission members met to discuss ways to undermine the Nashville Taxpayer Protection Act. As reported last month, this referendum, if approved, would roll back Nashville Mayor John Cooper’s 34-37 percent tax increase. The referendum would also limit property tax rate increases to 2 percent every year without voters approving it. Voters are scheduled to decide during a December 5 referendum.
Cooper, as reported, opposes the referendum and wants voters to reject it.
“We don’t know what the meeting was to discuss, but come on. You don’t have to be a weatherman to know which way the wind is blowing. They are getting ready to put the Nashville Taxpayer Protection. Act on the ballot,” Roberts said.
“Metro is fighting tooth and nail to keep it off the ballot. What do you think they were talking about? It’s possible that it’s for some innocent reason, but I sincerely doubt it.”
A.J. Starling, one of five Election Commission members, confirmed that he and his four colleagues met Friday.
“But it wasn’t a meeting,” Starling said Saturday.
“It was just an advisory.”
The Star asked Starling what he meant by that.
“We were getting some information from the Metro Legal, but it wasn’t a public meeting,” Starling said.
Starling would say nothing further.
Cooper spokesman Chris Song did not return our request for comment Saturday.
Roberts said “Cooper is desperate for some way to try to keep this initiative off the ballot.” He also said he believes Election Commission members “want to break the ballot initiative into multiple pieces” or change the scheduled date of the referendum.”
“Or they’re just trying to keep it off the ballot entirely, which will get the absolute crap sued out of them if they do, because that is absolutely a civil rights violation,” Roberts said.
Roberts also said Friday’s meeting “was totally inappropriate under the Open Meetings Act.”
“Regardless of what they spoke about, that should have been in a properly noticed meeting where they went into executive session,” Roberts said.
“That is what the law says, I think pretty clearly, and they should have come out of that executive session and said ‘OK, we’ve been given some advice, and we’re going to discuss that advice.’ That should have been done in the public. That is the law, regardless of whatever they were talking about.”
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