District Attorney Torry Johnson said Thursday his office would not investigate allegations of impropriety that followed the petition-drive triggering the referendum on the Tennessee State Fairgrounds.
Attorney George Barrett, representing the Neighbors for Progress group that supports redeveloping the fairgrounds, had requested in June that Johnson investigate how signatures were collected, arguing the petitions filed to hold the referendum warranted “illegal conduct.”
Fairgrounds preservationists had turned in several petition formats that were dismissed by the Davidson County Election Commission due to irregularities. Nonetheless, the commission still verified 11,159 petitions, nearly twice the 6,742-threshold petition organizers needed to cross.
“While it is possible that these petitions in question were a deliberate, albeit clumsy, attempt to mislead the Election Commission, it is just as likely they were the result of an innocent mistake or ignorance,” Johnson said in a release.
“I don’t think Davidson County taxpayers would be well-served by a lengthy and extensive investigation into matters that are, at best, a C misdemeanor,” he added. “In the end, the issue is fairly before the voters to decide on Aug. 4.”
Johnson also said it would be “extremely time-consuming” to conduct an investigation because many individuals took part in the petition drive.
Councilman Jamie Hollin, who heads the group Save My Fairgrounds and helped spearhead the referendum, said Johnson’s decision didn’t come as a surprise.
“It was nothing more than good old-fashioned gutter politics to try to drag supporters of the fairgrounds into the mud,” Hollin said of Barrett’s complaint.
The City Paper could not immediately reach Barrett for comment.