Live from Music Row Tuesday 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 attorney Kirk Clements of the Nashville-based Sovereignty Legal Foundation to the newsmakers line.
During the second hour, Clements highlighted elements of the case against Mayor John Cooper for shutting down Kid Rock’s downtown restaurant owned by Steve Smith and the fake COVID numbers to assist in that. He added that according to the timing of the emails from Cooper’s director Ben Eagles, it’s alleged that this was a personal vendetta orchestrated by the mayor.
Leahy: We are joined on our newsmaker line now by Kirk Clements. He is the attorney with the Sovereignty Legal Foundation representing Nashville businessman Steve Smith, and I think who owns Kid Rock’s Big Honky-Tonk and Steakhouse, and I think one other plaintiff in a case brought against Mayor John Cooper for shutting down restaurants and bars here in Nashville for, as it turns out, I guess no good reason. Good morning Kirk.
Clements: Good morning, sir. How are you?
Leahy: Well, I’m terrific. Tell us a little bit about this lawsuit. When was it filed? What have you learned in discovery? And what are you asking for?
Clements: Well, we filed back in May of this year. And specifically, we were seeking immediately to have the mayor’s orders set aside. We allege that there was no rational basis between his effort to close down the bars and stopping the spread of COVID-19. Through the course of discovery what we’ve learned is that actually Mayor Cooper has intentionally misled the public to believe that there was a record number of cases that broke out in late June that required him to shut down the bars on July 2nd.
We have evidence in the form of emails where his Senior Deputy Advisor Ben Eagles intentionally crafted a misleading email by taking the data that was provided to him from the health department and manipulating it to say that there was a record number of cases. He crafted that false statement and I could I can read it to you.
Clements: It says let’s see. He says, our public health investigation has found a record number of clusters originating from bars within the past week, which has affected employees, patrons, and musicians. That is completely false.
I should say it’s misleading because he uses the term cluster. A cluster can be one to a thousand cases from one location. And what it ended up being was that only 19 cases were found related to bars during the week when there were 3,000 cases to 3,200 new cases, I should say, which is less than half a percent.
Leahy: Yeah, exactly. And there were only three of those cases traced to restaurants out of the 3,200. And on July 2nd, not only did he shut all the bars down, but he reduced all restaurant capacity from 75 percent where you can kind of break-even down to 50 percent where you’re going to lose money.
Clements: Correct. Well, his real intention was to shut down Broadway. That’s what he wanted to do. It’s our position, and we allege in the lawsuit, that he was retaliating against Steve Smith for suing him one week earlier on June 26th. We filed a motion to add Steve Smith and a couple of his bars to the lawsuit that Monday.
Leahy: I didn’t know that. Okay. So the original lawsuit was filed in Federal court in May? Is that right?
Clements: Yes. Yes. I should have been clear from the beginning. That was with regard to my client The Local. He had borne West End, and then on June 26th, one week prior to the mayor shutting down the bars, we filed a motion to add in Steve Smith.
Leahy: Steve owns Kid Rock’s Big Honky-Tonk and Steakhouse on Broadway.
Clements: Yes, sir. Correct. And that Monday Ben Eagles emailed the health department, can you get me the number of cases related to the bars? He doesn’t get an immediate answer. He emails again on Tuesday. Hey, I really need this information by 2:30 pm.
And so once he got that information, he was hoping that there will be more than 19 cases. He saw there were only 19 cases. And we allege that at that point he decided to manipulate the data to make it appear that there was a record number of cases. And there simply was not.
Leahy: So your argument that this was a personal vendetta against Steve Smith for joining that lawsuit on June 26th. It’s at what you’re arguing?
Clements: In part.
Leahy: Yes in part. Okay.
Clements: I don’t think there’s any question about that given the timing and the aggressiveness of Ben Eagles trying to get the information and then when he didn’t get what he wanted, he manipulated it to make it appear that they had to shut down bars.
And one other important fact here is that on June 29th, a couple of days after Ben Eagles got these emails the health department sends over their recommendations as to what the city should do given the surge of cases. And none of the recommendations recommended that they shut down bars. Even his own health department did not recommend shutting down bars.
Leahy: So on July 2nd, the mayor said we’re going to shut down all bars for 14 days starting July 3rd, that extended to think about 42 days. Was Kid Rock’s Big Honky-Tonk Steakhouse shut down from July 3rd until mid-August?
Clements: Correct. Yes, sir,
Leahy: By the mayor’s order?
Clements: By the mayor’s order. And it wasn’t even the mayor’s order that really allowed them to open. Luckily the state intervened and allowed many of these bars to convert their licenses from limited-service restaurant licenses to restaurant licenses. And that allowed them to open up under the restaurant restrictions. That’s the only way that…
Clements: We got open in the middle of August instead of, I think, most recently he allowed 25 patrons in each bar, which is completely ridiculous when you have a 30,000 square foot bar till the allowed 25 people in there’s just again, there’s no rational basis for many of these restrictions except for the retaliation against Steve Smith.
And you also have to add in the fact that the mayor is politically motivated to keep people off of Broadway. He’s done a terrible job of trying to restrain the spread of COVID-19. He’s not quarantined the people that are sick. He’s not done the contact tracing properly.
He hasn’t addressed the real issue and in the COVID crisis, which is people are dying by the thousands in nursing homes. If you review his orders, none of his orders, none of them addressed nursing homes. None of them address the population that’s most susceptible to this which is those that are 65 and older.
He recommends that they stay home, but he doesn’t mandate that they stay home. He doesn’t mandate that if you are diagnosed with COVID-19 that you have to remain at home. And so to cover that up he doesn’t want pictures and videos of people having a good time on Broadway.
And so he’s tried to camp that down as much as possible with these just simply silly restrictions – 25 people in a bar, 50 people in a bar. You can’t even make money if you have a 1,000 square foot bar, let alone a 20 or 30,000 square foot bar.
Leahy: You say he’s not been doing contact tracing properly. Give us an example of that. What’s your evidence on that?
Clements: Yeah. Well, I’ll give you a great example. I had an individual who actually filed an affidavit in my lawsuit where she came down with COVID-19. She was called after the 10th, I guess you’re there I don’t know this for sure, but I believe they’re supposed to be quarantined for 10 days from the time that you stop displaying symptoms. She gets the call on that 10th day and they said okay, we’re releasing you to not no longer be quarantined.
But during the course of that, they didn’t ask her the names of people she’d be in contact with. They didn’t ask her where she’d been but they directed their questions at bars. They kept asking what if you’ve been to a bar. Have you been to a party? That’s what they were interested in. They weren’t interested in genuinely getting information to find out if there were others that had been exposed to this and then contacting them to get them tested.
Leahy: So it’s like pollsters framing questions to get the narrative they want?
Clements: Yes. From this individual that I talked to, that’s the conclusion we’ve come to. And there’s also there are some emails that I’ve seen from other people complaining that they had COVID-19 were and were never contacted by the city or otherwise required to quarantine or asked where have you been who’ve you been in contact with?
Leahy: Tell us the status of your lawsuit. And what do you expect to happen with that?
Clements: Well, the status is that I’ve, once these emails came to light I immediately attempted to take mayor Cooper and Director Caldwell’s deposition and the city’s fighting me tooth and nail. So we’re in we’re and motions on that at this time waiting for the court to rule. And what we fully expect is that all these lies that the mayor has told along with the Metro officials will ultimately lead us to success in this game.
Leahy: Will you come back and tell us more as the case progresses Kirk Clements?
Clements: Anytime you want sir.
Listen to the full second hour here:
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Photos “Broadway Nashville” by e Kat and “Mayor John Cooper” by Nashville Mayor’s Office.