Nashville election chairman quits in credit card flap

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Nashville Mayor Megan Barry has revoked the credit card privileges of the Davidson County Election Commission and ordered an audit of all charges paid with tax dollars.

The move on Monday comes after Election Commission Chairman Ron Buchanan announced he would be leaving. The Tennessean ( ) reports that Buchanan announced his resignation before WSMV-TV was to air an investigative report on credit card purchases.

The station’s report questions expenses of election administrator Kent Wall. While being interviewed, Buchanan is said to have gotten combative with TV reporter Alana Autler and called her a derogatory name. (Note: See excerpt below.)

Excerpt from the WSMV report:

A nearly two-month investigation by the I-Team exposed what a city council member called questionable spending by Election Administrator Kent Wall at restaurants and for office decorations.

Some of the spending at the restaurants was for Buchanan’s meals.

The Metro policy reads the use of Metro credit cards for meals at local restaurants is “generally not allowable,” especially for non-travel-related meals.

Yet the I-Team found that Wall and Buchanan racked up $123 at Sperry’s, an upscale restaurant in Belle Meade.

Our investigation also found the pair dined at Sam’s Place, another Belle Meade establishment, to discuss “DCEC business” on the taxpayers’ dime. Wall also used a Metro credit card at restaurants including Catia’s and Dalt’s.

Those purchases are small compared to what else we found to decorate Wall’s office.

Receipts show Wall spent $140 for a frame of the Nashville skyline, nearly $150 for lamps and bookends and $614 to frame a map of Metro’s districts.

The purchases came both before and after a controversial vote made by the Davidson County Election Commission in June 2015.

The commission voted to shut down 10 early voting sites, citing a budget shortfall, even though their budget was roughly $1 million more than the previous year.

At the time, Metro Councilman Ronnie Steine said, “They’re trying to hold everyone hostage in the community by claiming if they don’t get money for more internal office positions, somehow they can’t have the early voting sites.”

Eventually, the commission and the council reached a compromise, with the city funding an additional $283,500.

The same month those sites were shut down, Buchanan and Wall ate at Sperry’s.

…“Is it acceptable that you went to a restaurant such as Sperry’s for something that was Davidson County Election Commission business?” Autler asked.

“That charge was for a business meeting to discuss the budget on June 30 when the budget was approved July 1 and it was a very legitimate purchase,” Buchanan said.

“Could you have gone to another restaurant that was perhaps not as expensive?” Autler asked.

“That’s it,” Buchanan said, walking away from the camera.

“Can you explain the picture frame that was $614?” Autler asked.

“That’s it,” Buchanan said.

“That’s it?” Autler said.

“That’s exactly the kind of bitch I thought you would be,” Buchanan said.

“Wow, do you want to say that again Mr. Buchanan?” Autler asked.

“No,” Buchanan said.

At that point, commission spokeswoman Nancy DeKalb stepped in and asked for the conversation to stop.