NASHVILLE, Tenn.- The president of the Nashville-based Tennessee Hispanic Chamber of Commerce was suspended following the publication of a newspaper article that raised questions about some of his practices.
The board of directors voted unanimously to suspend Ismael "Robert" Chavez for at least three months pending further actions by the board, according to a statement released Wednesday afternoon.
Chavez owns Alpha Signs of Tennessee, which designs and makes architectural signs. Chavez was a representative on the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in Washington, D.C.
The board's move is in response to a recent cover story in the weekly alternative newspaper Nashville Scene that called into question Chavez's actions. According to the statement from the Chamber, the board was concerned with "the resulting negative implications of the article on the Chamber."
The board appointed vice president Ramon Cisneros as acting president.
The Tennessee Secretary of State's office is investigating the chamber regarding its nonproft status and solicitations, according to The Associated Press.
During Chavez's suspension, board members will review available information before making a final decision on Chavez's status with the organization. The organization will also examine its nonprofit status and whether it properly solicits sponsors, according to board spokesman Peter Woolfolk.
As chamber president, Chavez helped oversee a modest budget, but his chamber colleagues have ordered a thorough review of everything.
"But we've never had any indication, or inkling, that anything criminal has been done and, according to our attorneys and our accountants, nothing like that has surfaced," Woolfolk told NewsChannel 5.
According to Metro Police, Chavez offered to assist an officer with a routine traffic stop along Nolensville Road in May 2001. Chavez was ordered to leave but refused. The run-in got him a charge of no driver's license and disorderly conduct.
Chavez was also the target of a lawsuit for $25,000 filed last October by the Woodbine Community Organization. The suit claims Chavez co-signed for a loan to help two women get a restaurant off the ground. The organization said only $1,000 was paid back.
Members of the Nashville Area Hispanic Chamber said Chavez doesn't represent all Hispanics.
"We should not look at one person as we would not look at one person in a majority community, as a representative of everyone," said NAHCC Chairperson Marc Walwyn.
The Nashville Scene also claimed Chavez subleased 90 apartments to immigrants and jacked up the rent. NewsChannel 5 was unable to confirm that accusation Wednesday.
The Tennessee Hispanic Chamber of Commerce will conduct its own investigation.
Chavez declined a request for an interview and referred all questions to the Tennessee Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.