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Registry Delays Action on School Board Members

Posted at 5:13 PM, Oct 12, 2016

Four candidates who ran for Metro School board and the political action committee that supported them will have more time to defend claims that they violated campaign finance laws.

The Tennessee Registry of Election Finance deferred action on the case until its December meeting.
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The four losing candidates and the Stand For Children Political Action Committee face fines of nearly $700,000 for illegally coordinating their campaigns.
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Former candidate Miranda Christy attended the meeting saying she wanted to be available if registry members needed more information.
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"I want to make sure they have everything they need to do their job," Christy said.
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Christy and the other candidates Thom Druffel, Jane Grimes Meneely and Jackson Miller filed papers with the registry claiming they did not violate any campaign finance laws.
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They claimed some of the negative mail pieces the PAC sent out actually hurt their chances of winning.
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"There's more at stake here than my reputation. It's also the future of Nashville's leadership that's at stake and the public needs to know that," Christy said.
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She said people will never run for office if they could face these kinds of fines.
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But Tennessee Citizen Action - the group that filed the initial complaint - said the integrity of Tennessee elections is what is really at stake.
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"This is so important because this is a problem we've been having in Tennessee with outside money trying to come in and buy our elections," said Gerard Stranch an attorney for Tennessee Citizen Action.
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Stranch said the school board candidates relied too much on the pro-charter schools PAC -- Stand for Children.
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"The candidates are new to the political cycle. They didn't understand what was going on and it's clear they trusted Stand For Children," Stranch said.
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Attorneys for the PAC and the Candidates asked the Registry of Election Finance for more time to prepare their defense.
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One registry member questioned whether there was enough proof showing the PAC broke campaign finance laws.
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Based on what I've seen so far, I'm not sure this is a complaint that should have moved forward," Patricia Heim said.
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That was welcome news to the attorney for Stand for Children.
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The group claims when a PAC employee met with one of the school board candidates during the so called blackout period -- 10 days before the election -- he did so as a volunteer, not a PAC employee.
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"You've got to have more than the appearance, you've got to actually have substantial concrete, material evidence. The only evidence in this case shows that Stand For Children fully complied with the law," said Stephen Zralek who represents Stand For Children.
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The Registry will decide whether to issue fines at its next meeting in December.