NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — It's the time of year for gathering with co-workers and friends, but when is a holiday party more than just a holiday party?
A lunchtime gathering Wednesday inside the Davidson County courthouse has triggered the first controversy of the upcoming campaign for district attorney general, with an opponent accusing DA Glenn Funk of breaking state law.
"This is not Glenn Funk's courthouse," said Sara Beth Myers. "This is the courthouse for the people, and there is no place for political activity and grandstanding inside of a public space such as our courthouse."
Inside the building that houses Davidson County's criminal courts, Funk served up lunch for those who work in the courthouse.
The holiday gathering comes as Funk faces reelection for the first time in eight years. Among those working the party: the DA's employees whose jobs may be on the line if the boss loses next year.
"This is a Christmas party. We have our office Christmas party every year," Funk told NewsChannel 5 Investigates.
The district attorney insisted that sometimes a holiday party is just a holiday party.
"This was an opportunity for us to have a Christmas party where we could not only have all of our office attend, because our office is right across the street, but invite our partners."
Outside the courthouse, Myers saw something much more sinister.
"Inside the building right now, there is a violation of what is known as the Little Hatch Act, and it's essentially a public-corruption, election law that prevents public officials campaigning for office using government property to display campaign signs," she said.
The banners hanging over the event and on the walls are the same as the image on the Facebook page for Funk's reelection campaign.
Funk calls them his "office signs."
"An office sign for the District Attorney's Office," Myers countered, "would be a seal for the state of Tennessee."
"That is a campaign sign that has been used in parades and what-not already throughout his campaign," she continued.
But the district attorney insisted no laws were broken.
"There is no campaign literature here. There will be no fundraising. I am not even going to ask for a vote today," he said.
Funk added that he and his top leaders will pay for the lunch out of their own pockets, not with campaign funds.
While the gathering may be about celebrating the year that has passed, the controversy may also be a sign of the year to come.