Pigs at the Trough: Many of Briley’s Donors Are Developers, Lobbyists, Lawyers, and PACs Who Benefit From Metro Nashville Business

David Briley

By the Tennessee Star Staff

Acting Mayor of Nashville David Briley has raised more than $720,000 for his campaign to win the May 24 special mayoral election, according to two financial disclosures filed by his campaign with the Davidson County Election Commission for the period beginning March 8 and ending March 31 (when he raised $402,885) and the period beginning April 1 and ending May 14 (when he raised $317,315).

Much of his financial support comes from real estate developers, lobbyists, engineers, architects, lawyers, and PACs who stand to benefit from contractual relationships or the actions of Metro Nashville/Davidson County Government.

Briley’s former law partner, Charles Robert Bone and employees of the Bone McAllester Norton law firm donated $13,000 to Briley’s election campaign.

Charles Robert Bone was one of the leading proponents of the $9 billion transit tax plan, which Nashville/Davidson County voters rejected emphatically on May 1 by a 64 percent to 36 percent margin. The Bone McAllester Norton law firm frequently represents clients who have business interests influenced by Metro Nashville.

The firm has a practice area that “includes the representation of clients with issues related to the powers granted to these agencies, the validity and effect of rules and regulations adopted by these agencies and the relationship of these agencies to the client.”

Examples of agencies of local governments, including Metro Nashville “before which we practice,” the firm’s website says, include “Zoning commissions, Planning commissions, Election commissions, Housing authorities, Historical commissions, Procurement agencies, [and] Economic development agencies.”

According to the firm’s website, Charles Robert Bone has served “as general counsel for the Convention Center Authority of the Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County.”

The HG Hill Realty PAC donated $7,000 to Briley’s campaign. Jimmy Granbery, CEO of HG Hill Realty PAC was the subject of a conflict of interest complaint filed with the Board of Ethical Conduct on April 25. The allegation in the complaint is that Granbery used his position as Vice Chair of MHDA, the group responsible for drawing up the 19 metro transit districts under the failed $9 billion transit plan, to draw those districts in areas where HG Hill Realty owned significant property, thereby potentially increasing the value of those properties.

Last week, the Board of Ethical Conduct dismissed the complaint and the related allegations, which Granbery told The Star were “without merit” by a 5 to 0 vote, largely on the basis of a recommendation provided by Metro Legal Department. This is the same Metro Legal Department which supported the decision by the Davidson County Election Commission to set the date for the special mayoral election for August 2, a decision which was challenged and overturned by the Tennessee State Supreme Court, resulting in the current May 24 election date this Thursday.

Employees of Gresham Smith, an engineering firm that regularly does business with the city, donated $6,250 to the Briley campaign, while employees of the architectural firm Tuck Hinton donated $3,000, the same amount donated by employees of Hastings Architecture.

Employees of The Ingram Group, a lobbying firm recently hired by the Nashville Predators, which just last week endorsed Briley in the mayoral campaign–an action by a major league sports franchise that is unprecedented in modern American political history–donated $4,500 to the acting mayor’s campaign.

Hall Strategies, another lobbying firm hired by the Predators in an attempt to get the city to give it a better lease deal on Bridgestone Arena, also donated $3,250.

Other lobbyists and public relations firms were well represented as well. Employees of McNeely Pigot and Fox donated $6,000 to the Briley campaign, Mark Cate, head of the lobbying firm Stones River Group donated $1,500, as did David Cooley of Cooley Public Relations and an employee of Seigenthaler Public relations.

Developer Tony Giarratana, a member of his family and an employee of Giarattana Nashville donated $4,000.

High powered law firms that are constantly before Metro Nashville on behalf of their clients, or seek Metro Nashville legal business, were heavy donors to Briley’s campaign as well.

Employees of the Waller Lansden law firm donated $6,850 to the Briley campaign, while the Waller Lansden PAC donated another $7,800.

Employees of the Bass, Berry, and Sims law firm donated $5,500 to the Briley campaign, while the Bass Berry Sims Good Government PAC donated another $7,800.

Attorneys from Sherard & Roe donated $3,000, as did attorneys from Adams & Reese and attorneys from Lieff Cabrasser.

An attorney with Neal & Harwell donated $1,500, and and an employee of the Baker Donelson PAC donated $1,500.

John Ingram, head of Ingram Industries and a co-owner of the expansion MLS soccer team getting a new stadium subsidized by the taxpayers of Metro Nashville, donated $1,500, as did two other employees of Ingram Industries.

Other notable contributions came from Matt Kisber, CEO of Phil Bredesen’s solar energy company, the Solar Ranch, who donated $500, former Mayor Megan Barry’s former chief of staff, Debby Dale, who donated $1,000 to the Briley campaign, and Tennessee Titans President Steve Underwood, who donated $1,500.

“It is very disheartening to see the David Briley campaign – in order to allow him to retain his position as acting mayor – be funded so heavily by organizations who will benefit by decisions made by the Mayor’s office for years to come,” Davidson County Republican chairman Melissa Smithson tells The Tennessee Star.

“With Briley taking in so many contributions from special interest donations, this is a lose-lose situation for the residents of Nashville. It has been these organizations and the last two administrations that have allowed Nashville to be in a $40 million budget shortfall, and it certainly seems that Briley has not learned from the past mistakes of his predecessors Dean and Barry. Nashville should not be sold to the highest bidder,” Smithson adds.

“There seems to be a consistent pattern of those who donate to Mayoral administrations in Nashville reaping huge financial benefits,” Tennessee Star political editor Steve Gill says.

“The donation list to David Briley’s campaign looks like an all-you-can eat buffet of companies and individuals who expect that pattern to continue. Unless, or until, there is integrity and transparency in the mayor’s office, the Nashville taxpayers will pay the price,” Gill concludes.

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