NASHVILLE. TENN. (WTVF) — As Nashville voters began heading to the polls for early voting, the gloves came off Wednesday in the campaign for district attorney.
When the three candidates were asked how they were different from their opponents, Sara Beth Myers accused DA Glenn Funk of breaking the law by involving his own staff in a candidates forum this week.
"I have professional integrity. I will not break the law while I am in office," said Myers, a former federal prosecutor.
"The current DA has broken the law consistently over the past eight years — even as recently as yesterday when he violated the Little Hatch Act and had his own employees coming in during office time and actually campaigning for him."
That forum occurred during normal business hours for the District Attorney's Office.
Myers was referring to a virtual candidates forum Tuesday morning, hosted by the Nashville Coalition to End Domestic and Sexual Violence, in which Funk brought in four different members of his team to help answer questions posed to the candidates.
In a written statement, Funk defended the move.
"Over the last several months, Ms. Myers has made numerous false statements about the work of the Assistant DA’s in my office," the statement said.
"The ADA’s wanted to provide accurate information, and they took PTO time to do it."
Tennessee's Little Hatch Act says it is "unlawful for any person employed by the state to engage actively in a political campaign on behalf of any party, committee, organization, agency or political candidate ... during those hours of the day when such person is required by law or administrative regulation to be conducting the business of the state."
"That's something you won't see from me," Myers continued. "I will not violate the Little Hatch Act or commit felonies."
Myers has previously criticized Funk for hosting a breakfast in Metro facilities that featured his campaign logo. Her website is also critical of a controversial pension deal that Funk received as he prepared to take office in 2014.
During the debate, Funk did not respond to those allegations, focusing instead on his record.
"I'm the only candidate in this race that has a record to run on, and I'm proud of the record that I've run on," he added, pointing to efforts to employ restorative justice programs that keep people out of jail and to successfully prosecute violent crime.
The forum was hosted by Nashville public radio station WPLN.
There were also fireworks over the recent prosecution of Vanderbilt nurse RaDonda Vaught, whose drug mix-up resulted in the death of a patient.
Challenger P. Danielle Nellis said she never would have brought charges for such a medical error.
"What I know of the incumbent is that unfortunately, he has shown over and over his choice to make politically motivated decisions," Nellis continued, pointing to Funk's handling of two different police shooting investigations.
Myers called the Vaught case a "huge overreach."
"Where do you draw the line? How many healthcare professionals are we going to be prosecuting as a result of this?" Myers asked.
Still, Funk defended his decision to prosecute Vaught, saying she ignored 18 different warning signs that could have prevented the tragedy.
"Now she has lost her license and cannot get it back because of the conviction," Funk said.
"Our job is public safety and we wanted to make sure that the public was safe and she could not continue to be a nurse."