With a citizen raising questions about a possible Sunshine Law violation in connection with meetings between either one or two members of the Farragut Business Alliance with the developer of what is now Farragut Town Center — happening when that development was still seeking Town approval — Farragut’s top two elected officials responded.
During Board of Mayor and Aldermen’s Citizen Forum, which concluded its Thursday, March 9, meeting in Town Hall boardroom, Farragut resident Michael Wilson questioned the meeting discrepancy on the number of FBA participants as a highlight of his five-minute address.
Mayor Ron Williams said to Wilson that whether it was one or two FBA members talking to Budd Cullom, Town Center developer, “It’s not a violation of the Sunshine Law.
“One thing that I could say, whenever you say that something has been done in the sphere of being illegal, as far as ... the Sunshine Law, first off, there has to be an agenda item, it has to be discussed and it has to be voted on. So, if there are no votes taken and no discussion made at an FBA meeting, then I think you’ve got a dead point,” he added.
While Mr. (David) Purvis is deceased, “It’s not hard to talk to Mr. (Jim) Nixon” to find out the substance of his meeting with Cullom, Williams said to Wilson. “He’s readily available.”
In reference to Wilson bringing up what he referenced was Williams acknowledging through an e-mail that Wilson used a “gotcha” moment, the mayor said, “There’s nothing there. But you, and evidently other people, think there is.”
Moreover, “The other thing that’s been said is the Vice Mayor (Louise Povlin) and I were involved in some sort of a deal where we violated the Sunshine Law in that instance,” Williams said. “But that didn’t happen either.
“And I’ll tell you why: we didn’t know Budd Cullom until he brought that preliminary site (plan) to a meeting,” he added. “And I know you have the information because I sent it to you.”
Vice Mayor Povlin, citizen
“I had no information on how Budd Cullom came into the Town. I still don’t. All I know is what Budd Cullom told Michelle Hollenhead (in a Jan. 21, 2021, farragutpress story where Cullom was quoted as saying only Mr. Purvis met with him),” she added.
“I still don’t have confirmation that Jim Nixon was involved,” she added.
On a personal level, “My character and Ron’s character have been under brutal attack for more than two years,” Povlin said. “No charges have been filed; just a continuation saying ‘there’s this and then there’s this.’ There’s nothing.”
Referencing social media attacks on her and Williams among others, “It’s disgusting what’s happening .... Fear mongering and the mis-information that continues to be pumped out on Nextdoor,” she added. “... If you can do this to me, and I’m an open book — and I work so hard to be very up front and honest. ... I’m not trying to make it better for me and my business (Anytime Fitness, Kingston PIke, Farragut).”
Though agreeing about the negative aspect of Nextdoor, Wilson was allowed to respond, saying, “I just want to say Madam Vice Mayor, I have always praised you as far as your research and diligence in that respect.”
The Farragut citizens said he was responding to a discrepancy between Hollenhead’s January 2021 story (only Purvis and Cullom meeting), which “has been contradicted by an e-mail from the mayor to Tony Cox (publisher of farragutpress and a member of FBA) ... sent five days earlier (before the story was published in farragutpress).”
Saying he and other like-minded citizens “have been called “liars and worse by Town officials,” Wilson said his concern was “the perception of a cover-up” based on the e-mail versus the published story differences in who met with Cullom.
Moreover, he said his goal was seeking the FBA minutes “to see who was involved” in that meeting.
“That is something the citizens of this community should ask for accountability on,” Wilson added.
Regardless, Povlin countered: “Neither Mr Purvis nor Mr. Nixon were in a position to make a decision on public business.”
Earlier in the meeting, during a special citizen comment session on the merits of re-zoning property behind Ingles to allow for the Harmony of Farragut senior living center, an anti-rezoning citizen asked Alderman David White to disclose his relationship with the proposed living center’s property owner.
Because White was a proponent of Harmony and a friend of developer Doug Horne (owner of Republic Newspaper, Inc., parent company of farragutpress) — the citizen asked this alderman if he had “any personal interest” in his association with Horne and suggested, “might it not be appropriate for Alderman White to recuse himself?”
A few minutes later, White responded by admitting he and Horne have been friends "for years” who “lived two houses apart for years.”
However, for this relationship to be a problem when dealing with Town business, “you have to be involved financially,” White said. “You have to receive some kind of reward; you have to be paid. ...
“I have no personal interest in that project, I’m not a partner in that company, I don’t work for that company,” he added.
“... I’ve never been accused of any wrongdoing.”