Attorney asks DA to investigate collection of fairgrounds petitions

Tuesday, June 7, 2011 at 12:25am

Alleging that petitions submitted to hold a referendum on the Tennessee State Fairgrounds are evidence of “illegal conduct,” an attorney representing a neighborhood group has requested the District Attorney’s Office launch a formal investigation into the matter.

Attorney George Barrett, on behalf of Neighbors for Progress — which supports Mayor Karl Dean’s desire to redevelop the 117-acre fairgrounds — sent a letter Monday to District Attorney Torry Johnson that highlights five versions of petitions the Davidson County Election Commission voted to disqualify.

“We contend ... that several of those petitions were not merely improper but evidence of illegal conduct,” Barrett’s letter reads, which goes on to point to several state statutes that Barrett contends were violated. 

“In view of these serious allegations of breaches of the election laws, we are requesting that your office conduct a formal investigation into how the signatures were collected in support of the upcoming Aug. 4th referendum.” 

District Attorney Office spokeswoman Susan Niland confirmed the office received the request and said an attorney is reviewing it.

When asked to comment, Metro Councilman Jamie Hollin, who organized the petition drive, alluded to a suit former Councilwoman Pam Murray filed against him and several of his constituents after a recall effort led to her ouster. He compared that litigation with Barrett’s request for a probe.

"I don't know what’s worse,” Hollin said. “Someone filing a complaint against ordinary citizens for losing an election or some opposition group substituting its judgment for that of the election commission to allege election fraud has been committed.”

Despite the invalid petitions Barrett references, the election commission last month verified 11,159 petitions, nearly twice the 6,742-petition threshold that Metro attorneys deemed were necessary to add a referendum to the Aug. 4 ballot. The referendum will give voters an opportunity to decide whether to amend Metro’s charter to keep auto-racing, a state fair and expo center at the fairgrounds permanently.

Before verifying petitions, the election commission threw out several formats. They included petitions dated one year before the referendum movement actually initiated and formats in which mention of the Aug. 4 referendum was clearly added after signatures were collected. 

Barrett has alerted the District Attorney’s Office to several state election laws. Among them, a law states that anyone who “knowingly makes or consents to any false entry” on election documents commits a Class D felony. Another law assigns a Class C misdemeanor to those who purposely mislead another in election matters — through false statements, creating false impressions in written applications or relying on writing that is knowingly forged, altered or lacking in authenticity.

Rounding out his arguments, Barrett said the election commission didn’t allow observers to view or witness the verification of petitions. 

Hollin called Barrett’s request “nothing more than a last-ditch effort by the governing to keep the governed from being heard on Aug. 4.

“If their position had any merit, they’d file a lawsuit in appropriate forum to keep it off the ballot,” he said. “Instead they choose to engage in insidious attacks. There’s a complete absence of any reasonable public policy or legal argument in defense of their meritless position.”    

39 Comments on this post:

By: Shane Smiley on 6/6/11 at 10:39

George Barrett threatened to sue Metro if City Council redistricting was not completed prior to this election. His battle cry was "One person, One vote".
Mr. Barrett fighting to keep the voice of the people at bay concerning the fairgrounds issue is the polar opposite of his stated intensions for redistricting.

Will this change in stance concerning the people's voice lead voters to believe the whole redistricting was more about the Dean camp redrawing the districts in an attempt to disrupt the re-election of conservative council members who take exception to the Dean spending spree?

If Mr. Barrett is truly about "One person, One vote", You would think he would be for the voice of the people. Instead he has teamed up with Colby and Team Dean to silence the people.
Remember, Colby Sledge is part of the State Democratic caucus P.R./Press team.
When asked about the Fairgrounds referendum on Television, Sledge nervously giglged like a school boy and stated :" Obviously, I would really prefer not to see this on the ballot".
Not exactly the type of person or organization you would associate a man like Mr. Barrett, who pushed for the voice of the people to align himself with.
Add performing these services pro-Bono to the discussion and you really have to wonder what side of the fence Mr. Barrett is sitting on.
Even though he is straddling the fence, It is fairly clear where his bread is buttered.

In other news: Summer is getting hot and the gutters are starting to stink.

By: govskeptic on 6/7/11 at 4:28

George is quite the bully in these matters. I'm sure he and others thought the
number of signatures would never be collected, and now they are mad that
they did. Their main complaint is the polls are showing this is going to pass
by a fairly large margin, and they must try anything possible to keep it from
even being on the ballot. What good citizens this group are?

By: FCMullins on 6/7/11 at 6:13


Am I the only person that believes the neighbors around the raceway really have
no right to complain about the noise? The way I see it everyone that's complaining
knew the racetrack was there when they moved in!
So since they knew it could and would be loud then they have no right to complain now.
Maybe they should just move instead?!

By: CircleBurner on 6/7/11 at 6:51

I'm guess'n they got that Kyle Bush in a Richard Childress headlock feel'in bout now!------(inside joke)

By: richgoose on 6/7/11 at 6:52

It is very seldom that I get a chance to see the rogue Karl Dean get his face smashed in.

Hooray for whoever and whatever is for keeping the dilapadated Fairgrounds as seedy as ever.

By: bfra on 6/7/11 at 7:14

Karl's puppets at work!

By: BigPapa on 6/7/11 at 7:22

I think the better tactic would be for Dean to lay out all the reasons why keeping the FG is a bad idea. It's not like he has any opposition to deal with, just use the time to campaign against something you belive in.

By: ds on 6/7/11 at 7:31

Thank you Mayor Dean and others who promote the pursuit of happiness and improving my neighborhood. Thank you for your perseverance.

By: Floyd2 on 6/7/11 at 7:45

I'll tell you what's the worst, Hollin: changing the rules in the middle of the game. "The number of signatures" wasn't collected. Everyone agreed to 16,500. Hollin, his rich Williamson County racers, and his handful of thugs couldn't get that many, so they had "the number" changed to 6,500. Talk about moving the goalposts. Everyone in town knows that Hollin and his fairgrounds thugs have no scruples.

Oh, well, if you can only muster 11,000 signatures out of a county of 500,000, you don't have much chance of winning an election.

By: localboy on 6/7/11 at 7:46

Consider the source...

By: Sunshine1952 on 6/7/11 at 8:11

Hollin changing the "rules" - the election commission changed the rules. They initailly thought it was the last major election but it was the last county election. So get over it. The people have the right to vote on what they deem as the appropriate use of the fairgrounds not Mayor Dean or any governing body. I'm sick of so called people moving into neighborhoods and wanting to change and make it "friendly" I've lived in my hood since 1977 and I liked it then and I still like it. I've never ask anyone to take anything from my hood to appease a few carpetbaggers. You who are complaining are evidently not from the south as we like our races on Saturday nights, church and football on Sundays. So can we all not just get along? Especailly what is that group oh yeah the Waverly-Belmont group. Don't tell me when you moved there you weren't aware that there was a racetrack right down the road. When I was growing up the interstate was put in one mile from my house. I had to listen to trucks all night. I didn't choose it but I learned to live with it. So you need to learn to live with it.

By: FLeFew on 6/7/11 at 8:28

If you ever want to sue, just call "Ole George." It doesn't matter what the issue is, he is ready, willing and able.

By: pswindle on 6/7/11 at 9:01

Dean give it up, the people have won on the fairgrounds issue. We had better watch the outcome of the election.. We may see a little dirty tricks.

By: Floyd2 on 6/7/11 at 9:05

Grow up, Sunshine, I was born and raised in Nashville and I've been here a lot longer than you. I've also never been to a stupid race at that filthy racetrack. Real Southerners have better things to do. That's why the overwhelming majority of Nashville residents have never attended a race there, and that's why we'll vote against keeping that racetrack.

Hollin and his goons pressured the Election Commission to change the rules because they couldn't get the 16,500 signatures the Election Commission initially ruled that they needed. Everyone knows that. Just like everyone has heard the stories of Hollin's thugs trying to intimidate neighbors, very similar to the way in which you attack the neighbors.

If this petition drive is on the up-and-up, explain why petitions dated 2010 were turned in, explain why petitions were turned in with information that had clearly been entered after they had been signed.

Face it, this petition drive is as crooked as everything that Hollin does.

By: PKVol on 6/7/11 at 9:51

Floyd2 wrote: " I've also never been to a stupid race at that filthy racetrack."

If you've never been, how can you say it's filthy? That 'filthy' racetrack was good enough for Fan Fair for more than 15 years before it moved to the 'pristine' LP Field where it could double the allowable crowd.

As for petitions dated from 2010 being submitted, it was before the idea for a referendum came up and I'm sure many of those petition signers would have signed the correct petition but were advised that if they had already signed the earlier petition they were already included, so the 11,000+ official signitures would be much higher if everyone had been given the option of signing the 'official petetion'. This simply shows common errors among 'grass root' support that has the demolish the fairgrounds snobs up in arms in trying to prevent the common-man from having his say in the governance of the city.

By: Sunshine1952 on 6/7/11 at 10:29

Floyd2 I'm sure that you also probably live in a different part of the city then the rest of us. Not only have I been to several of the races at the fairgrounds - I also frequent the flea market at the end of the month and see the roller girls there on occasion. They also had concerts there at one time that I also attended. So why don't you remove your head from your .... and come out and see the sunshine. Also I have been in Nashville a lot longer than 77 that is just when I moved into the neighborhood that I currently reside in. Which is one mile from the court house - how close do you live to the inner city?

By: revo-lou on 6/7/11 at 10:40

Floyd2 seems like such a nice, non-judgmental person. I am sure he has nothing but the best intentions in his points.

By: Sunshine1952 on 6/7/11 at 11:52

Yeah - I know some of those goons. They are hard working - pay their taxes -do anything for you even give you the shirt off their backs kind of goons. Goons versus politicians !!!!!!!!! Wonder what the outcome will be?

By: Nitzche on 6/7/11 at 12:34

who lead the seance resurrecting george barrett? he"s been dead 30 years. he still thinks jim crow laws are in effect!

By: Treehouse fan on 6/7/11 at 1:17

The DA's office wont do squat unless thers something in it for them.
This barret guy seems like a real douche bag.I want my kids to be able to love the state fair,and enjoy racing at a dirty racetrack.I want my kids to want to walk away from their ipods and computers to see cows sheep,rides,boats and everything the fairground has brought us since its opened.
Let Barret and the DA and every other idiot that opposes the fairground sit in a room frull of teenagers with ipods,computers and smartphones w no desire to leave and see anything elde for 10 years.Theyd wish they never would have traded the fairground for a stupid high rise,or mini city crammed with 80 thousand dollar dog houses.

The fairground promotes family values,american life,imagination and so much more than electronic devices do.I concur w sunshine,and am tired of newly landed villiage idiiots bringing the crap they moved away from into our neighborhoods.
Some wonder why the unruly rob houses,vandalize,and cause havoc? if its not for money its out of sheer boredom or lack of good parenting.
Seeing Barret was smart enough to pass the bar,lets see if he knows how to educate and entertain tennessees youth that have forever loved the fair,the shows and the dirty racecar track.....

By: racer84 on 6/7/11 at 1:45

Has it been reported about DW making a $200,000 donation today to the efforts to save the Fairgrounds ?

By: Captain Nemo on 6/7/11 at 2:27

I am curious as to what Neighbors for Progress thinks is improper about this petition? All signatures are checked to see if they are the voters of Davidson County. Sometime the opposition well sign a petition in an attempt to let the petitioners think they have enough.

By: racer84 on 6/7/11 at 2:48

As someone who personally spoke to hundreds, if not over a thousand Davidson county residents as they signed these petitions I can tell you that they all knew exactly what they were signing and why.

I can also say I'm also represented by David Garrison, partner in Barrett's lawfirm. They had a chance to make a lot more money off of my case than this one.

For full disclosure.....Joey is David's brother, It should also be mentioned that David Garrison's wife is also an attorney and works with/for James Weaver.

So........You can see it's pretty convoluted when you start dealing with Politicians, Lobbyists, The media, and attorney's in Nashville......All of which are making money off the backs of those actually doing real work.

By: CircleBurner on 6/7/11 at 4:19

Talk is cheap... until lawyers get involved.

By: CircleBurner on 6/7/11 at 4:20

You win some and you lose some, but you get paid for all of them.

By: CircleBurner on 6/7/11 at 4:20

There are two kinds of lawyers, those who know the law and those who know the judge.

By: CircleBurner on 6/7/11 at 5:11

While law is supposed to be a device to serve society, a civilized way of helping the wheels go round without too much friction, it is pretty hard to find a group less concerned with serving society and more concerned with serving themselves than the lawyers.

By: govskeptic on 6/8/11 at 4:30

This was a grass roots effort on short notice to get the required signatures.
Number of signatures required is set by law not the Supporters! If, in fact,
the headings on the signatures pages don't read exactly the same, it's
because of private individuals hand writing those headings. It's not a
corporate sponsored, legalistic, group and they should be given a great
deal of leeway on this subject. George is just giving "The Mayor" a helping
hand in getting his way on this issue!

By: Doveplayer on 6/8/11 at 7:40

Hey Floyd 2,
I also was born and raised in Nashville and have attended races and other events there since 1964. Yeah it gets dirty it's an outside venue. If it's not kept up who's fault is it? The track promoter, expo event person, flea market or who? I'll tell you. The Fair Board is responsible for they upkeep of the fairgrounds. The fairgrounds generates millions of dollars a year and is paid for. So why isn't it kept up nicely? Why not demolish the Municipal Auditorium instead? It's old, ugly and does cost taxpayers money. The fairgrounds serves good purpose to many. Also it is the State Fairground, not the Nashville fairgrounds. That means it's open for all to use. As for for rich Williamson county racers, well Darrell doesn't race anymore but he did hone his skill at the fairgrounds and became quite successful. I don't know another rich Williamson county resident teaching there. I know lots of middle class grass roots racers from all over including Nashville. Learn to get along. I have walked the streets of Nashville getting petitions signed since.the winter and yes, they understand what they are signing and no one is threatened or offered anything to sign. I have had great experiences doing this and the only rude people I encountered were against the fairgrounds but oddly enough would.not discuss with me why. The save my fairgrounds volunteeers have worked very hard for a cause they believe in. Face it, if anti fairgrounds folks had worked as hard they might have a better view of this effort. Sadly, all they want to do is complain and sue when they don't get their way.

By: mayorofstcharles on 6/8/11 at 8:33

My biggest concern is the fact that Councilman Hollin is interfering in a district that is not his. How would he feel if Council Lady Moore was pushing something in his district that his constituents did not want. Sounds like a major disrespect on the part of Councilman Hollin.

By: racer84 on 6/8/11 at 8:45

I guess if Council lady Moore really knew what her constituents wanted then maybe you'd have an argument.

Fact is, The majority of her constituents want the Fairgrounds to remain. I know this because I have personally spoken to more people face to face in District 17 than she has in all her time in office. I know this because they told us that over and over and over again....."Our Council Lady Does NOT listen to us" !

Disrespect is all over district 17.

By: racer84 on 6/8/11 at 8:46

The Mayor has pushed things that the majority has not wanted and is even going so far as to fund over $100,000 last week to keep the citizens of Nashville from voting on the Fairgrounds......

Sounds like a dictator does it not ?

By: wasaw on 6/8/11 at 9:38

Reckon how hizoner will reward George for all his work protecting hizoner's interest? Now ole George is too shifty of a lawyer to do anything for free. He'll get his reward from hizoner; you can bet on it! Probably will be some phoney work paid out through MDHA. They seem to be the folks hizoner uses to pay back his boys.

By: mayorofstcharles on 6/9/11 at 7:19

If Counicl Lady Moore is such a poor representative...why does she get re-elected. Those who actually vote obviously support her, and you never answered the original question...what would Mr Hollin do if she supported something in his district that he opposed?
And Racer..a bit of advise...most people when you knock on their door for some political reason..tell you what you want to hear to get you to me...we shall see how this vote goes. But I will only be looking how the residents of that district vote...not whether it wins approval or not, for if it loses in the District for which it resides..then who is the true dictator to force a community to deal with something it does not want?

By: racer84 on 6/9/11 at 8:14

Mayor - When the corrupt political network that dean surrounds himself with wants you to be elected for reasons to benefit themselves it's not hard to get even Sandra Moore in as a council person. When people are just telling you what you want to hear they don't step outside in the snow and rain and spend 30 minutes telling you how corrupt the SNAP / Neighbors for Progress leadership is....and this was a member of SNAP / NFP that has attended every single meeting since it's inception. So don't try telling me or anyone in district 17 what a wonderful job she's done.

I had one group of ladies tell me they had been calling and emailing her for 2 years over a neighborhood issue and never got the first response. I gave the issue to a council member from another district and within 2 days the issue was addressed and resolved. You can post all your expert advise and opinion you want and some people may actually read it and believe it, but not me. I've walked the walk to be able to talk the talk and I know your bs is just that.

Why do you think Megan Barry,Jerry Maynard and Ronnie Steine keep getting elected and have loads of money in the bank ?

It certainly isn't because they are such wonderful citizens and great stewards of the taxpayer dollars. How's metro's bond rating after what theyve done ?

One is a convicted thief, one has his law license suspended over numerous ethical violations, and one married her college professor and now is in charge of ethics for a large local company. Yes, I know that makes no sense to have someone with no ethics being in charge of them.

Sounds like real leaders huh.....And these are Dean and Riebelings closest allies on the what does that say ?

Rich doesn't buy dinners for Barry weekly for nothing....then again she's proven to like older men so maybe that's why all the private meetings. Don't believe me, look at Rich's meeting calender and tell me which council members he meets with. Apparently you'd rather not educate yourself and see what's really going on. I research what Is going on so I'm not a fool for not knowing the truth.

It's all public record, anyone can go look around and read the mayors staff emails. Ironically they refuse to release the majority that are requested......Sure, it's against the sunshine laws to refuse to do what the law says but that is not an issue with the dean administration. Don't believe me though, try it for yourself and you'll see there's lots and lots to hide and they are.

By: truthisfun on 6/9/11 at 11:25

While I am certain Torry Johnson is just as corrupt of a public official as any found in Nashville, he will stay a mile away from this insanity...and can rightly claim he did so because it is a civil matter. Johnson already is feeling enough heat because his office failed to do anything about David Torrence, and the DA election suddenly isn't such a given.

The desperate attempts to keep this referendum off the ballot are last-ditch efforts to save some council members. As much as publications want to chant the mantra
"no incumbent at-large council members has ever lost," some are going down this time, and the number will be higher rather than lower with this referendum on the ballot. This is why the Dean campaign paid Craddock to drop out of the election at the last minute. Even that nobody stood a chance of knocking Dean off if the fairgrounds referendum were on the ballot.

I actually don't blame Barrett. He's being a good advocate even though he knows this is frivolous.

By: racer84 on 6/9/11 at 1:12

Truth is Fun - You state Dean PAID Craddock to drop out ?

Care to elaborate ?

You do realize that Barrett is serving libel suits left and right as part of this attack by the neighbors don't you ?

FYI - You aren't anonymous as you think online.

By: truthisfun on 6/9/11 at 1:24


This is not in dispute.

The day the Election Commission certified there were enough signatures for the fairgrounds referendum, campaign signs and literature arrived at Craddock's office. He instructed his staff not to put the signs up or distribute the literature. This almost was a week prior to the deadline have your name removed from the ballot.

As the period approached when someone else's name could be added to the ballot as a Dean opponent, Craddock had his name removed from the ballot.

Connect the dots.

As far as libel and slander actions, if a frivolous lawsuit is filed, a person can move the court to sanction the attorney and seek damages against the client. A libel or slander lawsuit based on a political argument would be ripe territory for someone to collect damages. Better yet, if a lawsuit is filed to initimate someone for political purposes, contact the Board of Professional Responsiblity and file a complaint, and also contact the United States Attorney's Office to report civil rights intimidation. This will not be the first time someone with this last name was referred for action, if you care to check. I cannot imagine an attorney who would violate the rules in such a way as to put himself into this jeopardy, but what you have described is such an action that would warrant board sanctions, up to and including disbarment. The Board's telephone number is in the phone book if this has actually occurred, along with the FBI and US Attorney.

I think you know what would happen if I got service of such a suit based on what I just wrote. It would be fun.

By: truthisfun on 6/9/11 at 1:26

"Paid" should be construed in a variety of ways, including promises of future assistance and retirement of campaign debts. Keep a close eye on these things.