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DA's office calls Metro Councilman Jonathan Hall's campaign finance disclosures 'concerning,' 'troubling'

Metro Councilman Jonathan Hall #1
Posted at 5:59 PM, Sep 30, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-30 23:42:34-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — The Davidson County District Attorney's Office is calling irregularities in a Metro Councilman's campaign disclosures "concerning" and "troubling."

This comes on the heels of a NewsChannel 5 Investigation into the campaign reports and financial disclosures of District One Councilman Jonathan Hall.

Last month, we told you about the complaint filed with the DA's office against Councilman Hall. In it, two of his constituents alleged that Hall improperly reported campaign donations and spending in both 2018 and 2019.

The DA's office reviewed the complaint and Hall's campaign reports and wrote in a summary, "the inaccuracies, omissions and inability to comply with the regulations are difficult to pass off as basic sloppiness or unfamiliarity with the requirements."

As our investigation first revealed, Hall failed to identify who made large donations to his campaign as is required by law. He reported that he donated more than $8,000 to his own campaign without itemizing those contributions. Additionally, he reported thousands of dollars in bank and cash withdrawals, plus miscellaneous purchases and reimbursements to himself without itemizing those payments.

But what the DA's office called "most troubling" was that one campaign finance report indicated a negative balance of nearly $500 while the next report indicated the campaign had a positive balance of more than $1,000.

Assistant District Attorney Brian Ewald wrote, "There is no documentation or explanation as to this discrepancy nor is there (obviously) any identification of the sources of the funds deposited to make the campaign solvent."

Ewald said he mailed a letter to Hall in July seeking answers and got no response. A month later, he had the same letter hand-delivered to both Hall's house and council office and still got no response.

Click here to read the letter

Ewald summarized his findings by saying, "It is my opinion that the allegations have merit," adding, "Therefore, it is my opinion that we must take the next step in the process."

As is required by state statute, the DA is now asking the State Bureau of Ethics and Campaign Finance to take the case and determine whether Hall should face civil fines.

Meanwhile, the Metro Board of Ethical Conduct voted on Thursday to hold a hearing to determine whether Hall violated ethical standards for failing to turn in annual financial disclosures which are totally separate from his campaign spending reports.

Elected officials are required every year to disclose their employment, investments, and other financial interests.

As we uncovered, since he was elected in 2018, Hall has filed just one annual report with Metro.

The same two constituents, Murray Philip and Mechele Neal, who filed the complaint with the DA's office also filed a complaint with the Board of Ethical Conduct because they say Hall needs to be held accountable.

Click here to read the letter sent to the Bureau of Ethics and Campaign Finance

At Thursday's meeting of the Board of Ethical Conduct, the Metro Legal Department told board members that if the allegation that Hall failed to file annual financial disclosures is true, it would violate Metro's Standard of Conduct.

Hall maintained after the meeting though, that the required forms were not missing, they are just late.

He told NewsChannel 5 Investigates, "I am required to do things in a timely fashion and have not always done things in a timely fashion. And that’s all. It's not 'not done.' Just not in a timely fashion."

But one of the constituents who filed the complaint wasn't buying that.

"It is four years and he still hasn’t filed. It is certainly delayed," Philip stated, adding, "And he’s making million-dollar decisions for the taxpayers and doesn’t file the forms that are supposed to give us confidence that he is operating ethically and legally. That’s a big concern for me personally."

The Board's hearing will be held late next month.

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