Mayoral candidate Michael Craddock is making transparency an issue, but his dealings with a developer raise questions about his own 

Ain't No Sunshine

Ain't No Sunshine

When developer Robert N. Moore Jr. demolished East Nashville's historic Evergreen Place, in a stealthy after-hours razing in 2005, local preservationists called it the end of an era. But it was the beginning of a mutually beneficial relationship for Franklin-based Moore and Michael Craddock, the Metro councilman currently running for mayor. According to records obtained by the Scene, Craddock has shared in the spoils of a friendship he formed with Moore after the two pushed to rezone the historic plot, thus making way for a Home Depot.

Since 2005, Craddock and Moore have been involved in at least two real estate deals from which the candidate and his family have profited, according to transaction records and interviews with Craddock. Both were house flips in the Inglewood neighborhood. In one, Craddock and his son, Michael Jr., purchased a house at a foreclosure auction for $29,000 and then transferred it to Moore through a quitclaim procedure. When the rehabbed house was sold to a vulture investor for $207,000 almost two years later, Craddock — who by then had begun raising money for his campaign for mayor — served as the real estate agent, netting a $6,210 fee.

For a candidate running on a platform of transparency and fiscal responsibility, the quiet dealings with a developer who is an obvious beneficiary of Craddock's Metro Council service are perhaps as troubling as the candidate's own financial misfortunes, some of which were already public knowledge.

It became widely known during his failed run for Criminal Court Clerk last year that Craddock has been paying on four federal tax liens that date back a decade. Last year, he borrowed $122,179.50 against his own home — some seven years after paying it off. He once held a number of rental properties around the city and has sold all but one, he says, after a rough period coinciding with the collapse of the American housing market. And he wrapped his 2010 clerk campaign with a $20,000 personal loan unpaid and only $278.83 in his campaign fund, according to his last financial disclosure, filed in January.

Craddock acknowledged some of his bad bookkeeping last year. But his relationship with Moore has remained private. He says their friendship blossomed after the Evergreen-Home Depot ordeal, during which Craddock held neighborhood meetings where vast majorities of residents said they preferred the big-box store to the 210-year-old home, which had been on the National Register of Historic Places but had fallen on hard times. (Moore did not return a request for comment from the Scene.)

The two stayed in touch after Evergreen Place's controversial razing, appearing together at a photo op to turn the first shovels — adorned with neat Home Depot-orange bows — at the site in May 2007. Almost exactly a year later, Craddock — who has been a Realtor since 1980 — sold Moore a house on Shadow Lane in the Inglewood neighborhood that he says belonged to an elderly man whose family wanted to unload the property quickly. Realtor Craddock priced it to move — directly to Moore, as it were — at $94,500. Craddock also was the agent eight months later, when Moore sold the Shadow Lane house for $152,000. If Craddock took the standard 3 percent commission on both deals — and he tells the Scene that is his practice — he would've netted just shy of $7,400.

Their success on the flip might have paved the way for the next job, a house on Tanglewood Drive — just a few blocks from Craddock's own home — about which the candidate tipped Moore. The ranch-style house had last sold for $106,000, but the owner was quickly under water. U.S. Bank foreclosed and moved the house for auction. Craddock says he and his son, Michael Jr., went to the March 2009 auction out of simple curiosity. But when they saw the Tanglewood house going so cheaply, the elder Craddock called Moore — then out of town — to tell him he had to make a move. Moore concurred, Craddock says, so the two bid. And they won.

The paperwork on the transaction for the Tanglewood house tells a different story than the narrative Craddock gives the Scene. According to the deed, "Michael Dale Craddock and Robert N. Moore" bought the house together on March 26, 2009. On the same day, Craddock filed a quitclaim deed to transfer the house to Moore, who paid no transfer taxes because his name was on the initial deed.

In the intervening months, Moore hired Craddock's wife, Kimberly, as a secretary; Craddock mounted a campaign for Criminal Court Clerk to which Moore donated $1,000; and Craddock loaned his campaign $20,000 — perhaps taken from the money he'd borrowed against his house a couple months earlier.

As Moore's agent, Craddock sold the Tanglewood house to investor Axiom for $207,000 in February of this year, taking a $6,210 commission.

But Craddock says that story is all wrong. He says it's his son's name on the deed, and that Michael Jr. put up a $29,000 "earnest money deposit" — essentially paper that guarantees your intention to buy a property — at the auction.

"The way that happened, there was an out-of-state auction company that come in and did that," Craddock says. "Actually, what we intended to do at the auction was to put it in Robert Moore's name as an assign at the sale. And they would not let us do that."

He adds that the auction company — North Carolina-based Williams and Williams — failed to put the "Jr." after his son's name on the paperwork.

"It was such a good deal that I called Robert while we were at the auction and said, 'You really need to buy this,' " Craddock says. "And he says, 'OK, if it's that kind of deal, I'll buy it.' But he was not there. He did not initially buy the house."

A couple weeks later, he says, the two Craddocks and Moore sat at a closing agent's table and shifted the paperwork so that Moore would become sole owner of the house. Moore then hired Michael Jr., who owns a landscaping company, to help renovate the house, the elder Craddock says. He adds that he, too, spent a lot of time at the house during the renovation. Craddock says he doesn't know how much Moore paid his son for the work; Michael Jr. did not return a request for comment from the Scene.

Ann Roberts, former director of the Metro Historical Commission, says Craddock and Moore appeared to be close while they worked to grease the wheels to tear down Evergreen Place. She says Craddock seemed overwhelmed when she met the two men at the site a few days after the nighttime demolition.

"Michael Craddock obviously was worried then about what he'd gotten into," Roberts says. "I think he was shaken by the amount of press that there was. He really said it was our failure, we should've bought the property or something," laying blame for the debacle — which included allegations of corruption against some of the city's zoning officials — on the commission.

To Craddock, though, the very suggestion that maintaining a profitable relationship with a high-dollar developer who relies on the city for some of his work is little more than the "child's play" of contemporary campaigns.

"If you look at all this, I understand how it looks suspicious," Craddock says. "... Robert Moore is a friend of mine, and I'm going to tell you, I'm not going to walk away from that friendship because of politics. I don't believe in that."

Maybe transparency and orange aprons don't go together.


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