Stockard on the Stump: Ketron audit presents ‘convoluted’ financial web for Registry board

    St. Dolly says ‘no’ to Capitol statue, sled ride for GOP caucus chair ends in wipeout

    Rutherford County Mayor Bill Ketron speaks to residents in a March address on COVID-19. (Photo: rutherfordcountytn.gov)
    Rutherford County Mayor Bill Ketron speaks to residents in a March address on COVID-19. (Photo: rutherfordcountytn.gov)

    Rutherford County Mayor Bill Ketron’s hearing before the Registry of Election Finance will pose new questions because it is “so convoluted,” a board member tells Tennessee Lookout, dealing with three entities tied up with each other.

    The Registry board is to hold a show-cause hearing with Ketron in April when he’ll be given a chance to explain more than $290,000 in expenditures that couldn’t be accounted for in three state audits in his Senate, Quest PAC and mayoral campaign accounts.

    “They intertwined with each other, and they really shouldn’t,” the Registry board member told the Tennessee Lookout.

    Rutherford County Mayor Bill Ketron (Photo: Rutherfordcountytn.gov)
    Rutherford County Mayor Bill Ketron (Photo: Rutherfordcountytn.gov)

    Ketron already faces $80,000 in civil penalties levied by the Registry board, but those have nothing to do with the audits, which are likely to lead to even more penalties.

    The former state senator could be hammered to the point he won’t be able to pay the penalties, which is required before he could seek re-election in two years. 

    But the board member tells the Tennessee Lookout the board will be “fair.”

    “I would like to see Mr. Ketron correct some of the stuff in the audit, which he can. There’s still time,” the board member said.

    Audits flagged Ketron’s expenditures on numerous items such as his vehicle, the MTSU Foundation, MTSU athletic event tickets and even Special Kids, a nonprofit agency in Murfreesboro that works with fragile children.

    Trey Harwell, the Nashville attorney representing Ketron, will likely do most of the talking in the April hearing. He will raise questions about the audits, try to correct discrepancies and seek an “abeyance” in penalties.

    Weather delays Forrest hearing 

    The Tennessee Historical Commission delayed a hearing this week on a request to relocate the Nathan Bedford Forrest bust because weather conditions kept an administrative law judge from traveling to Nashville.

    A rescheduled hearing on the State Capitol Commission petition to move the Forrest statue as well as those of U.S. Admirals David Farragut and Albert Gleaves will be held March 9.

    The controversial bust of Nathan Bedford Forrest perches in the Tennessee Capitol's second floor, between the chambers of the House of Representatives and Senate. (Photo: John Partipilo)
    The controversial bust of Nathan Bedford Forrest perches in the Tennessee Capitol’s second floor, between the chambers of the House of Representatives and Senate. (Photo: John Partipilo)

    The Capitol Commission filed for the waiver in 2020 after Gov. Bill Lee testified before the panel about the need to relocate the Forrest bust to the State Museum.

    Former Tennessee Comptroller Justin Wilson, who served on the commission at the time, made the request to shift all three busts to the museum for creation of a hall of “military heroes.”

    Meanwhile, Republican legislative leaders are seeking a legal opinion from Attorney General Herbert Slatery on the right method for removing the busts. 

    Said House Speaker Cameron Sexton, “Lt. Gov. (Randy) McNally and I have stated the correct process for the removal of an historical monument under the Heritage Protection Act. However, there appears to be some disagreement. Therefore, Lt. Gov. McNally and I will be asking Attorney General Slatery to opine for clarification on existing statute to ensure the process is correctly followed so no mistakes are made that could result in additional legal action.”

    Sexton and McNally, who favors adding context to the Forrest bust rather than relocating it, contend the matter should come first before the State Building Commission on which they serve. The Tennessee Historical Commission went ahead and started the process last October, skipping the Building Commission, which has not put the question on its agenda.

    Three members of the State Capitol Commission, the state’s constitutional officers, plus Gov. Bill Lee, serve on the Building Commission, in addition to Sexton and McNally.

    It is unclear whether all of these folks would sue each other or find a way to work it out, depending on what Slatery says.

    Biden offers help

    President Joe Biden spoke Tuesday evening with governors of states affected by the winter storm that devastated Texas and left millions of people without power and water. The call included Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee, Texas Gov. Greg Abbot, whose state appears to have been hit the worst, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear, Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly, Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt and Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves. 

    According to a release from Biden’s office, he told the governors he understood the severity of the conditions being felt across the states, and that he and First Lady Jill Biden were praying for swift recovery from the effects of the storm. President Biden reiterated to all the governors that his administration is ready to respond to requests for federal assistance and will deploy any federal emergency resources available to assist the residents of their states in getting through this rough storm.

    A spokesperson for Gov. Bill Lee’s office said the call with President Joe Biden and other governors of states hit by a winter storm was “informal,” and that Lee appreciated Biden checking on Tennessee.

    President Biden also expressed gratitude for all of the workers on the front lines responding to the storm, according to a statement.

    Asked whether Gov. Lee would be requesting assistance, spokeswoman Laine Arnold responded at mid-week, saying it was “an informal call” and that the governor appreciated Biden checking on the states’ situation.

    With the storm continuing, the state was monitoring the situation and would evaluate what assistance might be needed but was “taking it one day at a time.”

    Shirked again

    A year after former Gov. Winfield Dunn kindly turned down the opportunity to have the Cordell Hull Building renamed for him, one of Tennessee’s favorite daughters is asking lawmakers to think twice about building a statue of her at the State Capitol.

    Dolly Parton attends a press conference before a performance celebrating her 50-year anniversary with the Grand Ole Opry at The Grand Ole Opry on October 12, 2019 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Terry Wyatt/Getty Images)
    Dolly Parton attends a press conference before a performance celebrating her 50-year anniversary with the Grand Ole Opry at The Grand Ole Opry on October 12, 2019 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Terry Wyatt/Getty Images)

    Legislation by Democratic Rep. John Mark Windle of Livingston and Republican Sen. Paul Bailey of Cookeville is scheduled to be considered next week.

    But singer-actress-businesswoman-philanthropist Dolly Parton put a damper on the gesture, saying on Twitter this week: “I want to thank the Tennessee legislature for their consideration of a bill to erect a statue of me on the Capitol grounds. I am honored and humbled by their intention but I have asked the leaders of the state legislature to remove the bill from any and all consideration.

    “Given all that is going on in the world, I don’t think putting me on a pedestal is appropriate at this time. I hope, though, that somewhere down the road several years from now or perhaps after I’m gone if you still feel I deserve it, then I’m certain I will stand proud in our great State Capitol as a grateful Tennessean. 

    “In the meantime, I’ll continue to try to do good work to make this great state proud. Dolly”

    Gender questions rise

    Lt. Gov. Randy McNally: “I played in a lacrosse game in 2019 and there were male and female teams that played, and I could definitely say some of the females who played were a lot better than I was.”

    McNally believes transgender youth could hurt girls’ sports, but he knows of no cases in Tennessee and believes local entities should handle the matter.

    Living on the edge

    House Republican Caucus Chairman Jeremy Faison posted video Thursday showing him sledding down Capitol Hill, a ride that got a little out of control and wound up throwing him off the toboggan. About two years ago, doctors had to staple Faison’s scalp together after he was involved in a crash while driving between Nashville and his East Tennessee home. One wonders if his life flashed before his eyes again.

    House Speaker Sexton’s ride, recorded on Twitter, ended in a crash, too, but wasn’t nearly as disastrous.