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Complaints prompt investigations into Metro Councilman for ethics and campaign finance violations

Metro Councilman Jonathan Hall #1
Metro Councilman Jonathan Hall #2
Posted at 4:02 PM, Aug 27, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-27 22:06:16-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF)  — A Metro Councilmember is accused of violating ethics rules. And now both the Davidson County District Attorney and Metro's Board of Ethical Conduct are looking into the allegations.

Jonathan Hall represents District One on the Metro Council which covers Bordeaux, parts of North Nashville, Whites Creek and Joelton.

The law says you have a right to know who is making campaign donations to your elected officials and how they are spending that money.

But since being elected three years ago, Jonathan Hall has repeatedly failed to turn over that information. And, now, some of his constituents have had enough.

"If you were going to be elected to a position in Davidson County, you need to do your job," Mechele Neal told NewsChannel 5 Investigates.

Neal and her neighbor in North Nashville, Murray Philip, say their councilman, Jonathan Hall, needs to follow the rules like everyone else.

NewsChannel 5 Investigates has found Hall is the only current Metro Council member who has repeatedly failed to file required forms with both the state and Metro.

And the forms he has turned in have been incomplete.

Philip said, waving one of the campaign disclosure forms Hall filed, "You’re supposed to fill it out. He knew that! You know it. I know it. Anybody that looks at this knows it."

Hall was more than a year late turning in that disclosure to the Metro Election Commission and he still failed to identify who made nine sizeable campaign donations totaling more than $7,000.

"It’s all blank! You are supposed to have the name. You were supposed to have the address. You were supposed to have the occupation. You’re supposed to know the career. Nothing! Literally blank," Philip continued, still showing Hall's incomplete form.

Hall also failed to provide details about what he did with that campaign money, stating only that he spent more than $4,000 on "miscellaneous purchases." And he also reported that he withdrew nearly $7,000 from his campaign account without explaining how or where he used it.

"It just doesn’t add up and if you are going to do a position, do it correctly. This is a public position. You have to disclose what you’re doing," Neal said.

Neal and Philip filed a 10-page sworn complaint with the Davidson County District Attorney's Office explaining how Hall has failed to "conform to the law" and asking for an official investigation.

For Neal, it all started after she discovered Hall supported a large apartment project going up right behind her house when neither she nor any of her neighbors, she said, wanted it there. She wanted to know if the developer had given money to Hall's campaign.

So she went to look at his campaign filings and found it was impossible to tell.

"No idea of who gave it or how it was spent," she recalled.

"When you see that, what do you think?" NewsChannel 5 Investigates asked her.

"It just makes you kind of angry that somebody has been elected to the position and then they’re not holding up their end of the bargain," Neal replied.

"Transparency with any elected official is necessary because you hold a sacred trust," Rev. Judy Cummings told NewsChannel 5 Investigates.

Cummings first raised similar concerns when she ran against Hall in 2018. And she said it's even more of an issue now because Hall has not filed any new financial campaign disclosures in more than two years.

"You want to know, does this person have any financial ties to them? Because you want to make sure that the decision that they're making about your community, where you own property is not based on their own self interests, but based on the interests of the community," Cummings explained.

We repeatedly tried to interview Jonathan Hall for this story. He initially agreed to meet us at City Hall but then he failed to show up. Weeks later, he agreed to reschedule the interview, but before it happened, he suddenly stopped responding to our phone calls, texts, and emails.

Early on though, he did send us an email where he gave this explanation for the missing reports, writing, "I'm terrible with my paperwork and have to be reminded all the time. It gets done, I get fined, I try not to forget again."

But those fines he mentioned, he still hasn't paid most of them and they've been turned over to the Attorney General's Office for collection.

The fines were issued by the Tennessee Ethics Commission for late and missing conflict of interest statements.

Elected officials are required to file these annual reports and Hall should have filed four of them since being elected, but, we found, he's turned in only one to the state and just one to Metro.

"This is unbelievable!" Philip exclaimed as he discussed the allegations again Hall.

Philip and Neal said Hall needs to do better.

"There’s lots of other council persons, They have their disclosures. They have their financial records. And it’s like it doesn’t match. Why is he allowed to do that?" Neal wondered.

Neal and Philip also just recently filed an ethics complaint because of those unpaid fines and Hall's failure to submit his annual reports to the state and city.

The Board of Ethical Conduct will hold a meeting to discuss that complaint next month.

Meanwhile, the DA's Office told NewsChannel 5 Investigates they are still reviewing the pair's other complaint against Hall.