Registry Schedules Hearing on Burchett Complaint

A six-member state board that investigates campaign finance irregularities will meet next month and decide whether to look further into some questionable disclosure forms filed by Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett, reports Mike Donila.
In addition, state ethics officials said they also are seeking possible records that the mayor’s estranged wife, Allison Burchett, may have that are related to her husband’s 2010 election.
“We’ve got the complaint and now it’s up to the registry (of election finance) to determine whether it wants to proceed, dismiss or do something in the middle,” said Drew Rawlins, executive director of the state Bureau of Ethics and Campaign Finance.
At issue is a formal sworn complaint filed by local freelance writer Pam Strickland, asking state and local officials to look into campaign discrepancies in the mayor’s disclosure forms. Strickland, who writes a weekly column for the News Sentinel but is not an employee of the newspaper, filed the complaint last week with the Knox County District Attorney General’s Office and the Bureau of Ethics and Campaign Finance.
The state, at the time, said it wouldn’t act until it heard back from local officials.
On Friday, though, the Knox County District Attorney General’s Office forwarded the complaint to Rawlins. John Gill, special counsel to the Knox County District Attorney General Randy Nichols, sent a brief note saying he also has contacted Allison Burchett’s attorney “to retrieve any records in Ms. Burchett’s possession or control related to that election.”
…County Mayor Tim Burchett said: “Nobody wants to get to the bottom of it more than I do.”
Strickland said her “only concern is that it be investigated,” so “it didn’t matter” whether local or state officials looked into the issue, although she did say that “it removed local politics” now that it’s in the registry’s hands.
The registry, which is comprised of three Democrats and three Republicans appointed by the governor and the Legislature, will meet Sept. 5 in Nashville. At that time, members will more than likely decide whether to issue the mayor a “show cause” letter that would require him to explain how the errors occurred and to fix them if possible.
The board — if it chooses to investigate the issue — also would have to decide later whether to dismiss any issues or assess a civil penalty, which can be as much as $10,000 per offense.

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