The Bo Mitchell-Tonya Jones District 35 Metro Council race in Bellevue has turned heated, with opponents sparring over the appearance of city employees pictured at a neighborhood cleanup over the weekend.
On Saturday morning, Mitchell, the incumbent, took several photos of Jones and At-large Councilman Charlie Tygard, seen together alongside Metro employees who were cutting grass at an event on Newsom Station Road. In an invitation, Jones had billed the event as a community cleanup.
Mitchell, who says the cleanup had campaign elements, has alleged Jones and Tygard were unlawfully using Metro employees for political purposes.
“As the old adage goes, a picture is worth a thousand words,” Mitchell said. “I think the pictures demonstrate clearly what’s going on. Councilman Tygard and Tonya Jones were violating the law using government resources for a campaign event.
“Tonya Jones sent out a flyer to all the homes in the three neighborhoods on Newsom Station saying she was going to do a community cleanup with enthusiastic volunteers on Saturday,” Mitchell said. “Her enthusiastic volunteers unfortunately turned out to be people who didn’t have a choice in the matter.”
Jones, a former Metro Planning Commission member, said the employees at the event were from the Davidson County Drug Court, which she said is funded through grants and donations.
“After we delivered flyers to the neighborhood, he [Mitchell] knew we were coming,” Jones said. “He came down there, jumped out of his car with cameras blazing and yelled at everybody that we were breaking campaign laws.
“We were just trying to help with a community cleanup thing,” Jones said. “Certainly, I was taking advantage of the visibility. I think I would have been breaking the law had I been having a fundraiser using Metro employees. I think that’s breaking the law.”
Tygard, who supports Jones’ candidacy, said he arranged the attendance of the drug court workers and claims Jones had nothing to do with it. He said the cleanup was not a political event.
“All I know is, I saw a road that looked in horrible condition –– the sidewalk, the grass, the edging,” Tygard said. “I have been involved in dozens of community cleanup events, and I have used sheriff community service groups or, in the case of Saturday, the Davidson County Drug Court community service group.
“I offered Bo Mitchell the opportunity to participate with us,” Tygard added. “It was something that I organized of my own doing. I told Tonya that if she wanted to advertise it and set up her tent, she was welcome to do so.”