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 who revealed Metro legal foiled plans to hire independent counsel with adverse interest to the Election Commission and exposes an anonymous group harassing Davidson County petition signers.
Leahy: We are joined on our newsmaker line by our good friend Jim Roberts. Jim, you’re going to give us an update on where the Nashville Taxpayer Protection Act stands. Good morning, Jim.
Roberts: Well, good morning, sir. How are you doing today?
Leahy: We’re doing great.
Roberts: Let me tell you where we are. A lot has happened since we last spoke. We’ve had two Davidson County Election Commission meetings. They have hired an independent counsel. The chairman of the Election Commission admitted in a public meeting that the law firm recommended by Metro had an interest adverse to the Commission.
And I was happy to see that they terminated that relationship. The law firm that they hired before was clearly in Metro’s pocket. It was good to see them gone. There’s going to be another meeting tomorrow. The Election Commission is meeting on Saturday to review this independent legal opinion. And I’m pretty sure they’re going to vote then to put this on the ballot and just end all of this nonsense.
Leahy: So to bring our listeners up to speed on this, just summarize what you’ve done with the petition and what the purpose of the petition is, and what has to happen to get it on the ballot?
Roberts: So right now, we’ve got enough signatures filed with Jeff Roberts who is the administrative relations. And he has admitted that we’ve turned in more than sufficient signatures. And I think they’re going to vote to put it on the ballot. It does several different things as we’ve talked about over the weeks.
It rolls back that very massive 34 to 37 property tax. But it does a lot of other good things. It protects our parks. It ends permanent lifetime benefits for elective officials. It makes certain that we get our city back because we give cities away to sports teams and they leave us. I mean, there’s a lot of good government elements to this.
Leahy: Let’s talk about tomorrow. The Davidson County Election Commission will review the independent assessment of a law firm as to whether or not the 14,000 signatures you gathered and submitted are sufficient beyond, I think you argue that 12,000 were needed. They’re going to see if they agree or disagree with that characterization, and then they’ll vote on whether or not to put it on the ballot. Do I have that right?
Roberts: That’s my understanding. I’m not on the Commission, but that is the way I understand that their agenda is set up. They didn’t hire just a law firm. I think it’s important for your listeners to know. They hired probably the best well-known, internationally known constitutional professor at Vanderbilt Law School who I was honored to be in his class from 25 years ago. He is internationally known scholar on these type of issues, and he’s going to give them a fair and less Metro-biased opinion. And I think that’s what Metro is scared about.
Carmichael: Jim, let’s assume that the recommendation is to put it on the ballot, and the Election Commission votes to put it on the ballot. Metro is unlikely to sue, just as they did last time. And what is it about what you have done this time? What have you done to change it so that it comports with the ruling from the judge from the last time?
Roberts: What we did is we took the court’s ruling we know disagreed with part of it and we just accepted it. And we said we’re going to modify this petition to do exactly what the judge said. And we did that. And so I think the Election Commission is going to look at that and say, hey, we did exactly what we were told we needed to do, even though some of those rules were made up or not evident before, we did it.
And so I don’t think the Election Commission is going to have a problem with us. This is going to be very different. Last time, of course, we actually sued to get the Election Commission to put it on the ballot. This time, it’s going to be Metro suing the Election Commission to try to stop the election.
Leahy: Do you think they’re going to do that?
Roberts: I know they are. They’re already beginning dirty tricks in this town already. Yesterday and the day before, people in Davidson County started receiving letters from a fictitious group, a group that does not exist, made up telling people that they have they shouldn’t sign the petition. They’re trying to get them to withdraw their signatures. They’re sending people out to people’s houses. They’re texting them, which is illegal. They’re calling them with robocalls, which is also illegal.
Leahy: What’s the fictitious group and who’s funding them?
Roberts: Of course, we don’t know. They call themselves The Citizens for Responsible Government. And that was an entity that existed about 10 years ago, but it’s been defunct for over a decade. It was dissolved by the Secretary of State’s office. So they’re using a phony organization and a phony name, and it’s all just a complete fraud. I presume the mayor’s office is behind it. But this is sort of dishonest tactics. I mean, just total scare tactics.
I mean, they’re going to people’s houses. They’re calling people. I had a young lady who called me yesterday whose name, you may not realize that when you sign up to register to vote, a lot of people give them their phone number. This woman had not done that. And so somebody got a hold of the list of people who signed, ran it through a database, got her phone number, and called her up and harassed her.
Leahy: They’re harassing the citizens who signed the petition.
Roberts: That’s right.
Leahy: This sounds like voter suppression to me. (Chuckles)
Roberts: Absolutely no difference. This is just intimidation down the line. We think they may have gotten an advanced copy of the database from the Election Commission. I’ve talked to the Election Commission and they claim that they gave out a printed copy of the list last Tuesday. But letters were arriving Wednesday and Thursday, which that’s a pretty fast turnaround. So we think they got an electronic copy so they could run labels and print envelopes ahead of time.
Leahy: I suppose The Tennessee Star ought to do a public information request to see what was given out by the Election Commission.
Roberts: Well, I hope they will. I’ve already asked. I wrote a letter to the administrative elections yesterday asking for the identity of the group that got this advanced list and he was refused so far to give it to me. But there are some dirty politics going on here. You just have to understand how absolutely crooked and dishonest the other side is on this. The letters they’re sending out are incredibly deceptive from a phony group. That’s what we should expect.
Carmichael: Can you get us a copy of the letter?
Roberts: I’m working on it right now. I’ve had people send me pictures from their phone and I’m trying to get a hard copy in my hand so that I can post it. It really is dishonest. It just accuses people of not knowing what they were doing. A very condescending and arrogant type letter. But honestly, the real sad part here is the fact that it’s a made-up group. No one is going forward and saying hey, I’m against this, and here’s what I’m standing up for.
The text messages people are getting direct people to a website that was created five days ago six days ago and whose ownership is hidden. We don’t hide anything. You go to 4goodgovernment.com That website domain is owned by me. You can look me up. You can find me that way. It’s a long way to do it. Just looking at on the internet, I’m pretty available. But this is a hidden group, probably using outside money trying to roll this back. This is just corrupt to the core.
Leahy: Jim, what about the litigation? What will the courts rule on this when the Metro illegal opposes it?
Roberts: Well, that’s a good question. I’m not sure Metros got the well, I shouldn’t say that they’ve got a real problem here because they don’t have the Election Commission being their lackey this time. I think the Election Commission realizes that we did exactly what we were supposed to do. And so Metro is going to have to sue.
And I think they’re going to try to argue that people didn’t know what they were doing and that people signed something and just didn’t know what they were doing. They were stupid. And that sort of arrogance that you get out of government that we’re smarter than everybody and everyone else is stupid. So people must not have known what they were doing when they signed a petition.
Carmichael: So, Jim, are there things that are supposed to happen next week before next Friday when we have you on again?
Leahy: Yes. We do have a hearing set next week, we may ask the court to bump it a little bit, because we don’t know what the Election Commission is going to do tomorrow. We sue to force the Election Commission to verify the signatures and put it on the ballot. And they may do that on Saturday, so it may make this unnecessary. So we are sort of dealing with that at the moment. It’s a moving target. I mean, it’s a battlefield.
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Background Photo “Nashville City Hall” by Nicolas Henderson. CC BY 2.0.