Take note of one point that I did not underscore before: the conflict of interest in question regards Ms. Neighbors's receipt of campaign funds from specific sources that allegedly influenced her handling of both the bill and of her constituents who opposed the bill.
We are saddened to write to you today to share our deep concern with regard to recent events that have taken place surrounding Council Bill 2006-1178.
While we are in opposition to the bill itself and encourage you to vote “No”, we are even more troubled by actions taken by Council Member Diane Neighbors in the sponsoring and promotion of this legislation.
£ A clear conflict of interest is present.
Ethically, Council Member Neighbors should have recused herself from this matter entirely rather than sponsor legislation on behalf or with the support of at least one individual who we believe has contributed significant funds/support to her campaign.
Specifically, at least one campaign contributor, John A. Hobbs, has made substantive support to the campaign of Council Member Diane Neighbors – contributions that, in our opinion, appear to have impacted the handling of the bill.
Please make special note that we are not making any statements that should imply or be construed as evidence or implication of any wrong doing by John Hobbs, Joe Meeks, Tim Cameron or their families, companies or any political action group to which they are associated.
£ Disregard for the interests of impacted constituents.
The actions taken by Council Member Diane Neighbors appear particularly suspect given that that they go against the expressed interest of individuals and neighborhood organizations in areas targeted for these types of uses.
Specifically, it is our understanding that one major focus for the supporters of this bill is the development of at least one car wash location that has been opposed by the local resident organization, White Bridge Road Neighborhood Association, Inc., and their District Council Member, John Summers. While spending substantive time reviewing the development proposal, they all came to the conclusion that it was not in the best interest of the communities involved.
We also believe that it is not in the best interest of the citizens of Davidson County for Council Members to lose control over the placement and citing restrictions on land uses in their district that can have such a tremendous impact.
£ Council Member Diane Neighbors, chief sponsor, made promises to neighborhood leaders and others with regard to the handling of this bill, and, without explanation, failed to follow through on those agreements.
Concerned citizens and elected officials contacted Council Member Diane Neighbors with regard to her plans for the bill at second reading. A meeting was held at the Planning Department attended by Paula Lovett, President of White Bridge Neighborhood Association, Inc.; Irwin Venick, President of Woodlawn West Historic Neighborhood Association; John Stern, Chairman of the Nashville Neighborhood Alliance; District 24 Council Member John Summers; Jennifer Carlat, Planning Department Staff, and Council Member at Large Diane Neighbors. Ms. Neighbors promised the group that she would defer the bill, indefinitely, prior to public hearing. The group also agreed to work together on identifying more thorough criteria for locating car washes in SP zoned areas.
£ The actions taken by Council Member Neighbors subverted the Public Hearing Process.
Concerned citizens were specifically told by Council Member Neighbors that this legislation would be deferred indefinitely prior to the public hearing and second reading. Neighborhood groups such as the Glencliff Neighborhood Association understood that there would be no public hearing and did not attend the scheduled 2nd reading of the bill based on this information. While one may question the prudence of the decision not to attend the Council meeting, it should be remembered that this decision was made based on a level of trust in the word of a Council Member at Large who has claimed and continues to claim to be a neighborhood friendly elected official.
Based on the aforementioned information and supporting evidence, the Executive Committee of the Nashville Neighborhood Alliance is in the process of composing an ethics complaint to the Council Board of Conduct.
In the meantime, we are asking members of Council to do three things:
1) Immediately and publicly disclose any and all campaign or other financial ties to any member of the John A. Hobbs, Joe Meeks or Tim Cameron families, corporate support through PACs and or direct contributions from themselves.
2) Request all of the current sponsors and any Council Member with financial ties to the supporters above RECUSE THEMSELVES from any future vote / deliberation or other actions in support of Council Bill 2006-1178.
3) Encourage all other Council Members to disapprove this bill and to take all necessary actions to get it defeated.
The Executive Committee of the Nashville Neighborhood Alliance approached our actions on this matter with considerable deliberation and write to you today as part of our long-standing, non-partisan commitment to support the health, well being and safety of neighborhood organizations, their resident leadership, and in support of the citizenry and the Future of Neighborhoods of Nashville and Davidson County, Tennessee. We know that most of you take your responsibility to represent the citizens of Nashville seriously, and we appreciate your commitment and service to Davidson County.
Thank you for your time and attention to this sensitive and distressing situation.
John Stern, Chairman
Eugene TeSelle, President
Thomas E. Epperson, Vice-President
Christopher Catanzaro, Secretary
Patricia Totty, Treasurer