NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Rutherford County Mayor Bill Ketron has been ordered to pay $135,000 for campaign law violations.
Ketron appeared Wednesday afternoon before the Tennessee Registry of Election Finance and tried to explain why state auditors found hundreds of thousands of dollars unaccounted for when they looked at his mayoral and senate campaign accounts and his political action committee, Quest, account.
Ketron told the board the money was not missing, but that poor accounting and bookkeeping just made it look that way.
"I'm extremely embarrassed. I've done everything within my power to resolve. I fully accept full responsibility for what occurred. None of the campaign money was knowingly used for non-campaign purposes. Were there mistakes? Yes. Were they knowingly made? No," Ketron said during his opening statement to the board.
Ketron went on to explain that after he was diagnosed with cancer and his mother died, he asked his then 24-year-old daughter, Kelsey, to be his campaign treasurer. Only now, he conceded, it was too much for her to handle.
But one board member asked why Ketron had not removed her from the job when problems first arose several years ago.
Ketron's attorney described how they have tried to correct some of the reporting errors, but admitted that it will be impossible to fix them all because the documentation for tens of thousands of dollars in spending simply does not exist.
Ketron could have been fined well into the millions of dollars. But, the Registry took his plea for mercy to heart. One board member said he felt Ketron has been through a lot and has spent considerable money already on attorney fees. Meanwhile, Ketron told the Board that he's been forced to sell his longtime family insurance business and his only income now comes from his job as county mayor.
Ketron already owed $80,000 in fines for failing to file campaign spending reports. But the Board agreed to forgive those overdue fines if he pays the $135,000 they assessed at Wednesday's meeting. He has until January to do so.