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Swope denies wrongdoing as Metro Council colleagues eye ethics probe

Posted: 9:03 AM, Nov 17, 2020
Updated: 2020-11-17 21:17:01-05
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Metro Council member Robert Swope is denying he misused his office, as fellow Council members ponder a potential ethics investigation.

That follows reports from NewsChannel 5 Investigates that Swope may have improperly used his position to benefit his own company.

"To be very clear, the material claims made in the NewsChannel 5 stories that have aired over the past six weeks are false," Swope wrote in a letter sent Friday to his colleagues.

"At no time have I ever benefited financially, or otherwise, from any proposed solution, idea, design or concept that I have discussed with Metro over the past 5 years. In addition, there has never been a contract, agreement, or MOU between the City and myself or my company."

Swope responded to a letter sent by nine members of the Metro Council's executive committee following NewsChannel 5's revelation that he had repeatedly attempted to cut deals with the city where he and/or his companies potentially stood to benefit financially.

That letter suggested that, since Swope could face an ethics complaint if a citizen chose to file one, he should preemptively seek guidance from the Metro Board of Ethical Conduct about his actions.

"If you seek an advisory opinion from the Board, that may not prevent a complaint from being filed, but it would demonstrate that you want to have a transparent public resolution about whether how you conduct yourself complies with Metro's ethics laws," said the letter signed by Council member Bob Mendes and eight others.

In late September, NewsChannel 5 Investigates revealed that Swope had approached Metro officials, on behalf of Pale Horse Global Risk Solutions, trying to sell personal protective equipment (PPE) to the city.

Swope, who listed himself as "managing partner" of the company, told NewsChannel 5 that he never really held that title.

Last month, our investigation revealed that Swope had tried to get new Mayor John Cooper to endorse his company's transit plan for Nashville - a plan that would have involved a lease deal between his company and the Metro Transit Authority.

Cooper's legislative liaison Mike Jameson and Council member Bob Mendes both warned Swope that his activities might violate Metro law that bars Council members from using their positions to influence any decisions where they might have a financial interest.

Swope's response to his colleagues incorrectly suggests that he ceased all activities on behalf of his company after getting that advice.

In fact, in January, Swope hosted a meeting with Verizon representatives in Metro Council offices that, according to his own email, was to discuss his company's transit proposal.

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This past April, his partner sent him the company's "confidential" proposal for a development called "Nashville World Healthcare City," saying they needed to get a "letter from the mayor ... to get the operational cash flowing."

Then, within days, an email from Finance Director Kevin Crumbo shows Swope was also proposing a "$500 million interest-free loan arrangement with his Dubai-based company" and the city, "which would be repaid in some manner with a ownership transfer of some portion of infrastructure built with the proceeds."

Again, Crumbo suggested that Swope needed to get legal advice about whether his activities were legal.

In an interview with NewsChannel 5 Investigates, Swope acknowledged that the deals he pushed with the city could have eventually led to him profiting from the arrangements, asking: "What's wrong with that?"

Still, in responding to his colleagues, Swope struck a contrite chord.

"I would like to take this opportunity to apologize to all of you if any of my actions has reflected badly upon this Body," he wrote.

"It was never my intention."

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