State ethics officials have determined the maximum civil penalty for Metro Councilmember Jonathan Hall’s 36 campaign finance violations to be $360,000.
Until the penalties are paid in full, Hall is ineligible to run for public office again. Absent at Thursday’s Tennessee Registry of Election Finance hearing, he reportedly attributes his infractions to tardiness in filing campaign documents, according to The Tennessean, but $6,972 worth of withdrawals and another $4,160 for miscellaneous expenses are not appropriately detailed on Hall's disclosure forms, which appears to speculators like registry member Tom Lawless like personal use — an observation buttressed by certain expenses listed as going to “Firestone” and “Southwest.”
"He's been living out of this account like it's his personal checking account," Lawless said at the hearing.
In the course of the 2018 and 2019 election cycles, the District 1 councilmember neglected to appropriately file requisite financial reports, according to a letter sent to him from Bill Young, executive director of the state Bureau of Ethics and Campaign Finance. The reports his campaign did file included some without donor information or lists of individual expenses and others with suspicious discrepancies according to a preliminary investigation coordinated last summer by Brian Ewald, assistant district attorney general.
Relatedly, Metro’s Ethical Conduct Board has fielded discussion of Hall's case for three consecutive sessions dating back to around the same time with a complaint having been originally filed by Murray J. Philip in August. The Metro Ethics complaint focused on Hall’s failure to file disclosure statements, including those related to conflicts of interest.
The registry opted to censure Hall with the maximal $10,000 penalty for each violation. Five other disclosure statements are missing because the Davidson County Election Commission neglected to issue assessment letters to Hall.
Ewald's investigation got no responses from Hall to three letters requesting his explanation of the allegations, and two such letters were also sent to the Metro Council office.
Ewald wrote: "Mr. Hall's lack of interest in responding to the sworn complaint provides no insight as to these failures.”
Hall declined to comment when reached by the Post.