Just enough Metro Nashville City Council members voted to prevent an individual from joining the Fair Commissioners Board because she was Black – not Hispanic, as they’d wanted. The motion to appoint Vice Mayor Jim Shulman’s recommended candidate – Sandra Moore – failed by one vote only because of the color of her skin.
The bid to appoint Moore failed during last week’s committee meeting. During their meeting, council members opposed to Moore didn’t discuss the merits of her qualifications. The Rules, Confirmation, and Public Elections Committee had just approved her hours before.
The remainder of Nashville’s Community Oversight Board (COB) are registered voters in Davidson County. The Tennessee Secretary of State’s office confirmed this information with The Tennessee Star.
The Star inquired initially after discovering that a recently-resigned member of the COB, Ovid Timothy Hughes, isn’t a registered voter. Hughes was convicted of a felony in 2008 – mail fraud committed against a previous employer. Not only did Hughes not disclose this information, he stated falsely before the Metro Nashville City Council that he was a registered voter.
Wednesday morning on the Tennessee Star Report, host Michael Patrick Leahy welcomed the Tennessee Star’s investigative reporter Corinne Murdock on her follow-up questions to Metro officials and what responses she has received regarding the vetting of the Community Oversight Board’s potential committee members.
Metro Nashville’s Community Oversight Board (COB) members aren’t vetted prior to appointment – officials say they’re taken at their word. However, the shakiness of this method was exposed/ proved unreliable after The Tennessee Star discovered that recently-resigned member Ovid Timothy Hughes isn’t a registered voter, as he’d claimed and as was required of him by law. Hughes is a convicted felon, tried and charged in 2008 for mail fraud. He racked up over $78,000 of fraudulent charges against a previous employer using stolen credit card and account information.
Nashville Vice Mayor Jim Shulman spoke with The Star about this revelation. He assured us that they would be taking extra steps in the future to verify all COB applicants’ voting eligibility.
Unlike their government employee peers, Metro Nashville City Council members receive special treatment when it comes to health benefits. If they serve the two-term limit in full, they are eligible to receive lifetime health benefits on the taxpayer’s dime. All other Metro Nashville employees must work 20 years before earning similar lifetime benefits. These lifetime benefits reportedly cost taxpayers over $800,000 annually, which is projected to reach over $1.2 million by 2024.
Council member Tonya Hancock proposed BL2020-387 to change that rule in August. Hancock argued the bill was a step toward balancing the city budget and, in turn, lower property taxes. The bill would cut back on the 75 percent government-subsidized lifetime insurance for Metro council members. Hancock noted that a 2014 study discovered that no other peer cities offer retiree medical coverage for their council members. She bolstered her argument for the bill by noting that last year’s largest-ever property tax increase and over $4 billion debt with depleted reserves were further signs that the lifetime benefits were unwise spending of taxpayer money.