Group Asks Nashville District Attorney To Investigate Spending In School Board Races

A sign for school board candidate Thom Druffel stands outside Belle Meade City Hall alongside supporters of incumbent Amy Frogge during early voting. Credit: Chas Sisk / WPLN.

A sign for school board candidate Thom Druffel stands outside Belle Meade City Hall alongside supporters of incumbent Amy Frogge during early voting. Credit: Chas Sisk / WPLN.

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A Nashville advocacy group is calling for an investigation into spending in Metro’s school board races, alleging Stand for Children, a pro-charter organization based in Oregon, has broken Tennessee election law.

Tennessee Citizen Action is accusing Stand for Children’s political action committee of illegally coordinating with charter supporters to place four candidates on the school board: Miranda Christy, Thom Druffel, Jackson Miller and Jane Grimes Meneely

Records show that Stand PAC has spent more than $200,000 on the Metro school board races. But Tennessee Citizen Action says the issue isn’t just how much Stand PAC has put into the races; it’s how that money has been used.

“They’re spending an incredible, unprecedented amount of money in the race, and they’re doing it through coordination. Which is illegal,” said the group’s attorney, Gerard Stranch.

Under Tennessee law, PACs aren’t supposed to work directly with campaigns. But Tennessee Citizen Action said Stand PAC has been recruiting field workers for the candidates and calling voters. What’s more, Dan O’Donnell, Stand for Children’s political director, and Druffel also met last week — evidence, the organization said, that the two sides are working together.

Paul Murphy, a Stand for Children lawyer, denied each of the allegations. He said Stand PAC had not hired any canvassers to work for candidates and that the calls in question were done independently of the PAC and the campaigns by another Stand for Children affiliate. He added that the meeting between O’Donnell and Druffel took place on a day O’Donnell had taken off from work, making it legal for him to volunteer for Druffel under Tennessee law.

Murphy called the charges “politically motivated” and timed to come just before Election Day. But most of the activities Tennessee Citizen Action believes are illegal took place in recent days, Stranch said. He wants District Attorney Glenn Funk to look into the matter, even if it’s after the election, or refer it to state election officials.

A spokesman for the DA declined to comment on the request, saying the office has not yet received it.

This story was originally published on August 3, 2016.

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