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 outline the nature of lawsuits filed by Metro legal and the Nashville Business Coalition to suppress Davidson County voters after Election Commission votes yes on taxpayer referendum.
Leahy: We are joined on our newsmaker line right now by our good friend Jim Roberts, attorney for 4goodgovernment.com, and the folks had brought you the Nashville Taxpayer Protection Act. Here’s the first line from a story by Chris Butler yesterday.
“Less than 24 hours after the Davidson County Election Commission voted to place the Nashville Taxpayer Protection Acts referendum to roll back property taxes on the ballot both Metro Nashville Legal and the Nashville Business Coalition filed lawsuits to thwart the effort.” Jim, what’s going on?
Roberts: As expected, the attempts of voter suppression have just begun. We had no big surprise that the Metropolitan government would use our tax dollars to sue the Election Commission to try to keep the voters from voting on a tax referendum.
Really, no big surprise there. Their dishonesty is pretty well established. The Nashville Business Coalition is just a PAC. It’s a political organization that actually funds pro-business candidates. So they don’t really even have standing. It is a little odd that they are funding candidates for the purpose of trying to stop the voters from voting.
Leahy: So what happens with these lawsuits now? I don’t even understand the argument. At least in the Nashville Business Coalition, they’re arguing that the elements of the Nashville Taxpayer Protection Act are unconstitutional.
I think precedent in Tennessee is in a case of a referendum, the constitutionality question is not addressed by the courts until after the referendum. But tell me if I’ve got that wrong.
Roberts: No, that’s the way it’s supposed to be. And that was what was so surprising about the courts’ actions last year is that was pretty much the law in Tennessee and we relied upon that. But we made the changes. The reason they’re making these arguments is they have nothing else.
When we did the Taxpayer Protection Act the second time we made some changes that the court had said we needed to make. We did it. We followed it. We did everything, of course, said. And so they were just throwing something against the wall to see if it’ll stick. It is pure desperation. They’re trying to derail this by tying it up with litigation and they’re losing.
And they’re very frustrated about that. But their attempts are very dishonest. When you read their pleadings, they just make statements and they say, oh, it’s unconstitutional. They don’t explain why it’s unconstitutional or how it’s unconstitutional. They just say it. That’s all they can do is talk.
Leahy: Now, where does the litigation go? It goes into Chancery record here in Davidson County?
Roberts: It does. The two lawsuits were filed on Tuesday. We are going to intervene. We will file to join these lawsuits. We held off because there was an Election Commission meeting last night, which also went favorably for us.
And so we just held off. We wanted to see what happened last night before we did anything. So we’ll be intervening either today or first thing Monday morning depending on how my schedule goes.
Leahy: Tell us what happened last night at the Davidson County Election Commission meeting.
Roberts: You have to understand that the day after we turned in these signatures councilman Bob Mendes ran down to the council’s charter review committee and got them to rush through their own charter amendment.
It’s called a resolution. But their own charter amendment would absolutely undo everything that we were trying to accomplish. It was designed to confuse the voters. It was written in a way that didn’t make any sense. It was just a very dishonest attempt.
We thought what they were going to do is go in and argue that tell people to vote on all seven and get people to vote yes on all seven and then come in and create litigation over the conflicting provisions. The Election Commission very wisely and correctly said you can’t do things to confuse the voters.
And in fact, this resolution suffered for some of the flaws. They said that the original Taxpayer Protection Act, that’s all one big element. It doesn’t explain itself.
It’s clearly an attempt to confuse people and confuse the voters. And it was fun last night watching council Mendes almost break down in tears when he realized that he wasn’t going to get a chance to deceive and confuse the voters.
Leahy: What was the vote on that?
Roberts: It was three to two. Unfortunately, this did fall along party lines. It shouldn’t. This is not a Republican ballot initiative or a Democrat. If anything it’s libertarian. It’s good government. Many, many Democrats support restraining the Metro property taxability.
And many Republicans do. This is not partisan any way. They’re making it that way because that’s what the Metro government is doing.
Leahy: Why have so many Democrats, particularly Democrat attorneys decided that really what their job is is to subvert the rule of law by manipulating law? That’s what I see. One of the Democrats here is an attorney. I forget her name, but she’s been there for some time.
And then Bob Mendes has a very good background as an attorney. University of Chicago Law School. A clever attorney. And Jamie Hollins also who is representing Nashville Business Coalition and a very intelligent guy. But what happened? Why is it that they’re all trying to subvert the rule of law?
Roberts: It’s because they worship power a lot more than they worship truth. They know their arguments are dishonest. They know that they’re suppressing the voters’ rights. Imagine you get up in the morning and you think I’m going to go out today and suppress the citizens’ rights to vote.
And they rationalize it. It’s because their thirst for power exceeds their belief in the Constitution. Bob Mendes is fighting to protect his lifetime benefits and he’ll step all over the Constitution to get free lifetime benefits from the Metro government.
He’ll do the same to keep his power to raise taxes. Remember, when we had that tax increase, Bob Mendes was saying we should have, like, a 40 or 45 percent tax increase. He loves taxes. He’s protecting Metro Council’s ability to tax us all into poverty. (Inaudible talk)
Leahy: The ballot initiative is scheduled to roll back the 34 percent property tax increase and is scheduled between 60 and 75 days from the decision on Monday? Is that right?
Roberts: That’s right. They have to have 75 days to sort of get their ducks in a row to hold an election. And so they voted on Tuesday and set the election for July 27. We’re going to have an election.
Leahy: July 27. What could possibly go wrong with this in terms of the Chancery court? Do we know which judge is going to take on these challenges from Metro Legal and the Nashville Business Coalition?
Roberts: We know that at least one of the cases that I was sent was assigned to Chancellor Perkins. My gut feeling is it’ll all be transferred to Chancellor Lyle before it’s all over. She is a fabulously intelligent judge, and I don’t always agree with her but I certainly think that she is thoughtful.
And I personally think she should be the judge because she’s going to see all the things that she was critical of us for, she’s going to see Metro doing the same thing, and she’s going to have to say, what’s good for the goose is good for the gander.
Or she’ll be a hypocrite. And I don’t think she’ll do that. We may ask to move this out of the county. This may be too much pressure on a local judge, put an unfair position, even though Chancellor Lyle works for the state, her staff works for Metro. So they have a lot of pressure on her.
Leahy: That’s interesting. What do you think the odds would be of moving it out of Davison County?
Roberts: That’s a little bit in the courts’ preview. That’s always a question. When you raise the issue, the court system is not only supposed to be fair, it’s supposed to look fair. The appearance of fairness as well as actual fairness. Admittedly, it might look bad in this situation.
Metro’s arguments are so incredibly dishonest that it may just put the court in a very awkward position. Remember, Metro Legal has engaged in some very illegal and unethical behavior related to, I believe, to the first Taxpayer Protection Act. And we may ask the court to remove them from this case because of their prior unethical conduct.
Leahy: That’s interesting. The Nashville Business Coalition may not have standing is part one. And then you may ask the court to remove Metro legal because of their prior bad acts.
Listen to the full second hour here:
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Background Photo “Nashville City Hall” by Nicolas Henderson. CC BY 2.0.