NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — A man who reportedly made threats against the Tennessee Registry of Election Finance was escorted out of the state board's meeting Wednesday morning by a state trooper.
Mark Clayton — who unsuccessfully ran for the U.S. Senate against Bob Corker in 2012 and then tried to run for Tennessee Governor in 2014 — showed up at the Registry's regular meeting and stood up as the board was considering a fine against Metro Councilman Jonathan Hall for failing to file campaign disclosures.
Clayton rambled for a bit, not making it clear whether he was there to support Hall's case or make a claim against it. He also made disparaging comments about the Davidson County District Attorney's Office.
Registry members were confused and as they tried to ask Clayton what his connection was to this case, Clayton appeared to grow agitated and started to raise his voice. He was asked to quiet down, but he yelled back at Registry member Tom Lawless, "I need to be quiet?"
The board chair Paige Dennis then asked Clayton if he was the one who had called the Registry office on Tuesday.
Clayton said, "Excuse me?"
She asked again.
Clayton asked, "About what?"
Dennis asked a third time, this time asking if he had made threats when he called.
Clayton's voice started to rise again. He accused chairwoman Dennis of making a criminal accusation against him and immediately, someone with the Registry said, "That's it. You're dismissed."
They then asked the trooper who was standing in the back of the room to come forward and escort Clayton out of the building.
As Clayton left, he warned the trooper not to touch him while turning to the Registry before stepping out of the room, saying, "I'll see you in court."
Once the room settled back down, Chairwoman Dennis told those in the audience that Clayton had called the Registry offices Tuesday and made "threatening accusations."
Clayton also reportedly made "inappropriate statements" and used "hot language" that made the staffer who answered the call "concerned."
Registry Executive Director Bill Young said that was why they had taken the unusual step of requesting a trooper attend the meeting.
Registry member Hank Fincher said in all of the years he's served on the board, this was the first time he could recall that someone had been physically removed from a meeting.
Meanwhile, Councilman Hall did not show up for the Registry's meeting. He reportedly sent an email early Wednesday morning, explaining that he would not be there because his child needed to go to the doctor.
But, that was not enough to convince the Registry to give Hall any more time.
Back in January, the Registry fined Hall $360,000 for a laundry list of campaign finance violations after an investigation by the Davidson County District Attorney's Office found Hall had repeatedly failed to file required campaign disclosures, reported what appeared to be, at best, questionable, expenditures and failed to identify most of his major donors, as required by law.
Then in February, Hall asked the Registry to reconsider the fine and give him time to turn in the required materials and correct the errors on his campaign disclosures.
And at the Board's meeting in March, Hall told members he just needed a little time to get everything fixed.
But, Brian Ewald from the Davidson County D.A.'s Office said at Wednesday's meeting that Hall has not filed anything new and a letter to the Registry from the Davidson County Election Commission confirmed the same.
While there was some discussion among board members about delaying their decision because Hall was not at the meeting due to a sick child, Chairwoman Dennis urged the board to stay the course, saying, "Mr. Hall has had a blatant disregard for what we do and what we do as a committee. His unresponsiveness, his lack of response, his lack of communication is something that has just continued and continued. His untimely filing for his reconsideration and missed deadline all of the way up to an email sent at 7 a.m. this morning, three hours before this meeting was to get underway, all seems to me just another attempt at extending and just extending every consideration."
Hall must pay the entire $360,000 before he can run for office again, though Hall has previously indicated that he does not plan to seek re-election to the Metro Council.