NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Metro Councilman Jonathan Hall was slapped with hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines by state regulators.
The penalties stem from apparent campaign finance violations, and the money given to Hall when he was running for office and how he spent it.
The Tennessee Registry of Election Finance issued the fines at its meeting Thursday. Hall had been invited to attend but did not show up.
As the Tennessee Registry of Election Finance took up the case against Metro Councilman Jonathan Hall, he was nowhere to be found.
The board members had before them 36 separate violations of campaign finance law to consider, stemming from Hall's run for the Metro Council in 2018 and 2019.
As NewsChannel 5 Investigates first reported last year, Hall's required disclosures of his campaign donations and spending raised a lot of questions. Some of his forms were never turned in while others, not only were turned in late, but Hall failed to identify who made nine sizable donations totaling more than $7,000. He also failed to provide details about what he did with much of that campaign money.
The Registry tried to get answers from Hall, but the state board's attorney said they had no luck.
"We have had absolutely no communication with Mr. Hall," General Counsel Lauren Topping said to the board members. "He has not responded to show cause notices or to any other attempt to reach out to him about this matter."
And, with Hall not there to explain or defend his actions, it was clear board members were not at all happy.
"He’s done pretty much everything he shouldn’t do on this topic," David Golden said
And the board's chair, Paige Dennis immediately jumped in saying, "I agree with you completely and I think for me, it’s the blatant disregard, blatant disregard that calls for (the substantial fine)."
So when it came time to assess penalties on the 36 alleged violations, the board lowered the boom.
Dennis proposed, "The maximum penalty for each (violation) is $10,000. That’s $360,000. I would like to ask my board, what do you feel about accessing the full penalty of $360,000?"
Board member Tom Lawless quickly replied, "I think we should."
And the vote to fine Hall $360,000 was unanimous.
Later, NewsChannel 5 found Hall at the Metro Ethics Commission meeting, which is also considering taking action against the District One councilman for the same sorts of issues.
Afterwards, NewsChannel 5 asked Hall why he didn't show up for the Registry meeting earlier in the day. He insisted he wanted to be accountable and focus on one investigation at a time.
"We’ll deal with that (the Registry) after the work is concluded here (with the Metro Ethics Commission)," Hall said.
"But today was the day you were supposed to appear before the board to defend yourself and be accountable? And you didn’t show up?" NewsChannel 5 Investigates asked.
"Well, that’s because there’s still the part of the process that is in place to allow me to be able to address that," Hall said.
When asked how and when he would pay the $360,000 fine, Hall said he planned to appeal it.
Meanwhile, the Metro Ethics Commission voted at its meeting to hold a hearing next month on the allegations against Hall and determine whether he violated the Standards of Conduct of an elected official in Nashville.
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