Nashville council censures member Jonathan Hall for campaign finance violations

Nashville's Metro Council voted to censure Council member Jonathan Hall for campaign finance-related ethics violations Tuesday — an uncommon move for the 40-member body.

Metro's Board of Ethical Conduct recommended censure for the District 1 council member on March 10 after concluding he violated Metro's ethical conduct standards by failing to file required financial disclosures in 2018, 2019 and 2020.

Metro Code requires the council's Rules Committee Chair — in this case, Council member Tanaka Vercher — to file a resolution based on the board's recommendation.

Council members approved the censure 33-0 with two abstentions after Vercher's attempts to defer and withdraw the resolution failed.

Hall, who has a pending appeal with state election finance officials for similar infractions, has said he takes full responsibility for the missing and incomplete reports. Hall said Tuesday he's hopeful a better process and more reliable disclosure system will arise from the situation.

"What we're going to do in here is what we're always supposed to do in here, which is take us and our relationships out of the conversation and just deal with the information," he told fellow council members before the vote.

District 1 Metro Council member Jonathan Hall
District 1 Metro Council member Jonathan Hall

The censure represents the council's on-record recognition of an ethics violation by a council member. The Board of Ethics did not recommend any further penalties.

"It is the right thing to do," At-large Council member Bob Mendes said Tuesday. "It doesn't mean we don't like Council member Hall, it doesn't mean that we enjoy this situation, but for the sanctity of the rules and what we're doing in trying to govern the city, it's the right thing to do."

At-large Council member Sharon Hurt said the situation saddened her, imploring for a way to mitigate these issues before they reach the council floor.

Metro Council will have a special-called meeting with the Davidson County Election Commission on April 14, which will cover disclosure requirements and a new way for councilmembers to submit disclosures, Vercher said.

A formal complaint filed by a Davidson County resident spurred Metro's examination of Hall's financial reports. At the same time, Hall's disclosures — or lack thereof — came under scrutiny of state ethics and campaign finance officials.

The state Registry of Election Finance voted in January to impose a $360,000 penalty on Hall for 36 violations identified by Assistant District Attorney General Brian Ewald in a preliminary investigation last summer. Registry board members delayed their reconsideration of the penalty in mid-March, pending updates from local authorities.

Hall failed to file multiple mandatory financial reports on time or at all during election cycles in 2018 and 2019, according to a letter sent to Hall last December by Tennessee Bureau of Ethics and Campaign Finance Executive Director Bill Young. Reports he did file lacked required donor and vendor information and itemized expenses, including $6,972 in "bank/cash withdrawals" and $4,160 for "Misc. Purchases."

In March, Hall told state officials his records would soon be updated with the Davidson County Election Commission. He told The Tennessean he plans to attend the registry's next meeting with documentation for expenditures not itemized on his previously filed reports.

Reach reporter Cassandra Stephenson at or at (731) 694-7261. Follow Cassandra on Twitter at @CStephenson731.

This article originally appeared on Nashville Tennessean: Nashville Council censures member Jonathan Hall for campaign finance violations