Fair board chair also registered lobbyist for Hickory Hollow Mall

Tuesday, November 16, 2010 at 5:10pm

James Weaver is the chairman of Metro’s Board of Fair Commissioners. But the Waller Lansden Dortch & Davis attorney is also a registered lobbyist of CBL & Associates Properties Inc., owner of Antioch’s Hickory Hollow Mall, where Mayor Karl Dean hopes to relocate events currently held at the Metro-owned fairgrounds expo center. The fair board oversees fairgrounds activities. 

Weaver registered for CBL Properties on Jan. 28, 2010, according to a list of Metro lobbyists that can be found on the Metro Clerk’s website.

As the Metro Council prepares to weigh in on a set of leases that would enable the Hickory Hollow move, some have questioned whether Weaver’s role raises a potential conflict of interest.

Contacted by The City Paper, Weaver, who has served on the fair board since 2006, said he’s represented CBL at some capacity since 1990 and currently works on behalf of every mall in the Nashville area, not just CBL. Chattanooga-based CBL also owns CoolSprings Galleria in Franklin and RiverGate Mall in Goodlettsvlle. Weaver also represents as a lobbyist companies that own The Mall at Green Hills and Bellevue Center Mall.

Weaver said he stopped working for CBL “many months” ago but remains listed as lobbyist because registering as a lobbyist is valid for one-year increments.

“When CBL informed me that they were discussing the flea market and expo center with Metro as a possible tenant at Hickory Hollow, I stopped working for CBL at that moment,” Weaver said. “My time records reflect the last time I did any work for CBL at all — and I don’t even know what it was on — was February.

“I’ve had no discussions with Metro, with [Metro Finance Director Richard] Riebeling or anybody else with Metro about Hickory Hollow on behalf of CBL, and I haven’t had any discussions of any substance with CBL about … moving anything at the fair to there,” Weaver said.

Weaver also pointed out — correctly — that the fair board has never taken a vote or deliberated about moving the expo center or flea market to Hickory Hollow.

“It’s never come before us,” Weaver said.

Metro Councilman Michael Craddock, who supports the preservation of the 117-acre fairgrounds, called Weaver a friend and a “very honest and forthright individual.” Nonetheless, Craddock questioned whether the lobbying ties create the right perception.

“There’s an old saying that perception is the cruelest form of reality,” Craddock said. “That’s something that we deal with in the courthouse and in public life — perception.

“I’m shocked to know that it appears to me that he’s still a lobbyist for CBL,” Craddock said, stressing that he’s been told Weaver has cut ties to CBL. “If he is still a lobbyist, that is a bad perception for people to have.”

Metro Department of Law Director Sue Cain said she wasn’t aware that Weaver was registered as a lobbyist for CBL and that she would look into whether there is a legal conflict of interest. 

18 Comments on this post:

By: govskeptic on 11/16/10 at 5:22

What new, nest of snakes all over Metro and State governmental affairs!
Hidden owerships, unlisted affiliations, business interest not publicly known,
heck it's just a big game for most!

By: Nashvillian50 on 11/16/10 at 6:41

This is not news, its on the Metro web site and Weaver hasn't voted on any of this and said why ( conflict) in the meetings.

By: MAmom on 11/17/10 at 12:29

Weaver has served on the Fair board since 2006. Weaver represented CBL at some capacity since 1990 - and only recently resigned.

As Chairman of the Fair Board Weaver used his position to neglect and mismanage the Fairgrounds. Now Weaver is one of the Dean Administration's biggest cheerleaders to "redevelop" (i.e.: sell) the Fairgrounds. He is a part of the "team".And, what a coincidence, a CBL property has been selected as the new "home" for the flea market. Just because he didn't participate with the lease negotitiations - doesn't mean there isn't a conflict of interest.

And after this all settles down - Weaver will probably represent CBL again. This period is just a break in service.

He is not a fair, objective party where the Fairgrounds/CBL are concerned. There is a conflict of interest.


At tonight's Council meeting the public was allowed to speak. Four people spoke in favor of the CBL leases and "redevelopment". THEN APPROXIMATELY 30 TO 40 PEOPLE spoke out AGAINST the CBL leases & the mayors plans. Some of these were Fairground supporters, flea market vendors, event organizers, race supporters, opponents to Dean's HH plans, lease opponents, etc.

I suspect Dean will do his best to try to prevent THAT from happening again. Watch for shenanigans by Dean's cronies at the next meeting.

An interesting point: one Councilman said something like he was offended by the departure from normal procedures. Said that in a Democracy ... people had to follow the rules... and letting the public speak was evidently offensive to him. I was told this representative - who doesn't want the public to talk - represents the Paragon Mills area.

One Fairgrounds supporter was a former member of the Fair Board, said that at the time he worked with the Fairgrounds there were over 700 "activity days" (i think that was the term) - where multiple events occurred at the same time in different buildings. The Fairgrounds were so busy they had to turn away business. The Fair had good financials back then, too.

That was then. Now the Fair Board (led by Weaver) chases away business & runs up expenses.

By: karlwithak on 11/17/10 at 7:39

CBL Properties with Metro Taxpayers as it's customer base felt so little about those same people that keep them in business that they structured this "DEAL" in an underhanded, and obscene amount of profits for themselves.
The politicians we can show how we feel at the polls next election.
To CBL Properties - It's almost the biggest shopping period of the year and I promise we are going to spread the word of your misdeeds. I and no one I know will be shopping at any facilities that have anything to do with CBL Properties !

Pull the plug on this entire fiasco if you want to save face, but you're company jumped into bed with some real snakes. You just got bit, and it's poisonous.

By: budlight on 11/17/10 at 7:45

The anti-Fairgrounds group has dug up information on James Weaver. They are diligent at digging up dirt.

HOWEVER, since they are bombarding everyone with anti-fairgrounds e-mail, I have requested several times for THEM to identify WHO THEY are. They have refused telling me that "Due to your non constructive emails".

So my e-mails asking them for THEIR identity is "non constructive"? And they are a secretative force? Hmmmmm? Wonder if it's Obama and his transparency poliicy iinfecting our city and these Anti-Fairground warriors?

Who are you? Identify yourselves. Or shut up.

By: nash615 on 11/17/10 at 8:13


Who are you talking to, and what are you talking about?

By: pswindle on 11/17/10 at 9:31

Well the dirty tricks are in our Metro Government. This information should stop the fairground takeover in its tracks.

By: not_guilty on 11/17/10 at 11:08

Oooh! This smells bad.

By: Community-carl-... on 11/17/10 at 12:13

Time will prove that corruption, secret deals, and personal gain for well-connected friends of Mayor Dean and his administration have reached epic proportions during his tenure as mayor. You wait and see......after he uses Nashville for a stepping stone for higher political aspirations, we will left with mountains of debt, a Hickory Hollow Mall that is still an under utilized failure, a new Covention Center with attached hotel that is not self-supporting, and drastic reduction of all the activities formerly hosted at the Fairgrounds. The end result will be a huge property tax increase for us ordinary citizens of Nashville. If Dean is not stopped, our future is not going to be pretty.

Oh yes, all of Dean's "lip service" RE: Adult Literacy is another example the hypocracy of him and his administration. We have all witnessed the systematic dismantling and destruction of the popular Metro Community and Adult Education program during his tenure thus far. Who knows what will be the next thing to go?
Who knows what kind of desperate financial situation his projects are going to leave us to struggle with for years?

RE: The James Weaver issue....If it looks like a rat, smells like a rat, and acts like a rat, chances are, it is a rat. Ditto for this whole issue involving the Fairgrounds and Hickory Hollow Mall. Shame on Karl Dean and his cronies.

By: Nashvillian50 on 11/17/10 at 7:06

This just posted on Ch 4 Web site:

Statement of James Weaver

Is there a Conflict?

As the people who are making these claims are more than well aware, the Fair Board has never considered, discussed, deliberated, nor certainly voted on moving the Flea Market and Expo Center to Hickory Hollow. Not once. While our Staff is very supportive of the potential move, and believes the Flea Market and Expo Center can thrive in Hickory Hollow, the decision to pursue this location was not ours to make. My past work for CBL (which is well known and of public record) and my service on the Fair Board since 2006 does not in any size, shape, fashion or form represent a conflict of interest, ethical or otherwise, because we (the Fair Board) didn’t make this decision.

Did I lobby for Hickory Hollow?

In 2008 when the Fair Board made the determination that holding the Sate Fair at the current fairgrounds was not in the best interest of the City or the Fair, and that continuing a money losing racing operation at the track for 20 more years didn’t make sense, we asked the Mayor to consider the options and advise us as to the best path forward. The Mayor informed the Board in 2009 that his office of Economic and Community Development would work to secure “new locations” for the Flea Market and Expo Center. It is my understanding that the Mayor and his ECD office have been diligently working on just that ever since.

It is public record that my firm and I have worked for CBL for many years. We also are honored to work for most of the major retail venues in our City. I personally have worked on and off for CBL since the development of Cool Springs in the early 1990s. As soon as I learned that CBL was discussing the Flea Market and the Expo Center with the Mayor’s ECD office I stopped all work for CBL and have not worked for them since. My actions in this regard were discussed and cleared by the Fair Board's very experienced and highly regarded Metro Legal attorney. Together we made the determination to go the extra mile and for me to stop all work for CBL even though nothing in the Metro Code required it, and ethically it was not mandated. As stated above, I did not lobby for or otherwise suggest Hickory Hollow as a location for any Fairground operations.

Why I am I still registered?

When a client retains us to represent their interest before a Metro entity I register with the Metro Clerks office. See http://www.nashville.gov/mc/lobbyist_index_2010.htm
While “lawyers” are actually exempt from this requirement, my practice over the years has been to register in an effort to provide complete transparency. Pursuant to this practice on January 28th of this year, as I do every year, I registered for CBL and 2 other mall owners in Metro. These registrations are valid for one year. Similar to the tags on your car, which are valid whether you drive the car or not, the registration remains in effect regardless of one’s completion of the project or ceasing to provide services. Again, as the people who are making these claims are more than well aware, simply because my registration was still on file does not mean I was working for CBL.

By: MAmom on 11/17/10 at 7:18

What else do you expect Weaver to say now that his relationship with CBL has been exposed?

A person who believes in what he is doing cannot turn off their loyalties so abruptly.

He has been part of the "team" that has been orchestrating the ruin the Fairgrounds.

Mr. Weaver has merely taken a leave of absence from his official lobbyist role.

By: MAmom on 11/17/10 at 8:51

Wonder if Waller Lansden Dortch & Davis likes this kind of attention?

By: wwrcd on 11/17/10 at 9:59

Would you rather be a lobbyist or the link below?


By: MAmom on 11/17/10 at 10:46

And at the end of the article it says:
After The City Paper furnished the new information about Watson's past to fairgrounds group member Lisa Leeds, who was the Libertarian Party's 2008 candidate for the State House seat held by Mary Pruitt (D-Nashville), she replied with a one-sentence message just as this story was going to press.

"Thomas Watson is no longer affiliated with the Fairgrounds Heritage Preservation Group," Leeds said.

By: RickTNRebel on 11/18/10 at 8:33

I honestly believe the decline of the fairgrounds was "engineered" just as is the decline of Fort Nashboro, which I'm sure will probably meet it's demise and be sold off too, if "Deano" and his heeled friends get their way.
The "white elephant" speedway they built in Lebanon is failing,
The "train to nowhere" was to increase property values out that corridor (if it had been built to serve "the people", it would've headed to the north along the "old Gully" to rivergate and beyond).
The damned Convention center is going at break neck speed and folks downtown(including tourists) are drinking contaminated water because the lines are opened up constantly, you can taste the street runoff.
I agree the fairgrounds has to be self-sustaining...I don't see that being a problem if we got rid of the lebanon track and turned "the worlds fastest five eighths mile track" into another Bristol...NASCAR is headed for a short track future because of environmental concerns...it could be used as a music venue also.
Forget maytown and focus on modernization of Metro Center, which is the most logical place for the organizations being forced to the HH mall.

By: jasonweaver on 11/18/10 at 9:19

There needs to be a timeout. Instead of rushing in to make changes, Nashville needs to figure out what it wants to be in the eyes of companies looking to move into the region. There hasn't been a clear statement that if you build it they will come on the fairgrounds. At least with the convention center, events are being booked that Nashville has never hosted in the past.

By: pswindle on 11/18/10 at 9:25

I think that Weaver blows the dirt, and the fairgrounds should stay where it is. This is dirty tricks all the way. I would not believe anything that he says, and Dean has blow his credibility.

By: MAmom on 11/18/10 at 7:54

Originally Dean's plan was to "redevelop" the Fairgrounds. Then when there was push back ... he started throwing out "bones" to get more people on board with his plan. These were not part of his original plan ... they kind of morphed as the discussion moved forward.

The following promises have been made - but all are contingent on "redevelopment" of the Fairgrounds (plus a multimillion lease debt):
1) a park in a flood plain for the Fairgrounds neighborhood (could have been done anyway),
2) cleaning up a portion of a polluted stream (should have been done anyway),
3) giving a Community Center to HH residents (should have been done anyway).
4) make HH viable again by bailing out CBL (even though there is a high likelihood that the flea market, etc. will fail at HH).

Other examples of less-than-honest behavior:
1. Dean's projected revenue & job numbers are all unsubstantiated estimates - underlying assumptions have not been revealed - so these numbers cannot be evaluated. So are effectively lies.
2. The Fairboard has been running up expenses and chasing away revenue - to make the financials perform poorly to "justify" disposition of the property (even though provisions of the original Fairgrounds legaldocuments made provision for difficult financial times).
3. Dean promises thousands of jobs from "redevelopment" - implies that these jobs will go to local people. Realistically, a big Corporate employer will not be a new company - and when they move there the good jobs will go to their existing employees - not to unemployed local people.
4. Deans representatives have said the HH site is is acceptable (to them) for flea market/expo events. That is despite the facts:
- there are not enough doors to enable vendors to set-up and break-down in a timely manner,
- HH has less square footage than the Fairgrounds,
- there are insufficient people/stuff movers (i.e.: elevators/escalators),
- car and boat shows have said the structure will not support the weight of their vehicles,
- animal events will not work there,
- there are fire code limitations on how many people can be in the building,
- there are parking restrictions at different times of the year,
- traffic around Bell Road is terrible, etc.
- and the public doesn't want to go to a failed mall. if they did, they'd be shopping at a mall.... instead of at a flea market.
5. Dean has said that vendors want to go there. Wrong, wrong, wrong! Vendors have conducted unofficial surveys amongst themselves - and except for a handful - overwhelmingly vendors do NOT want to go to HH. Many plan to boycot HH because their customers have told them they will not attend flea markets at HH.
6. The fairgrounds are empty 6 days a week. Again, wrong.

There is a lot of vacant commercial property around town - some of it not too far from downtown. Why not develop these properties?