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Rep. Stevens campaign finance complaint about Mayors McFarland and Reed is reset to May 28

The mayors of Murfreesboro and Smyrna and a Political Action Committee will have more time to respond to a campaign finance audit and investigation request from State Rep. Robert Stevens.

The Republican lawmaker from Smyrna asked the Tennessee Registry of Election Finance to investigate three campaign finance accounts in a Jan. 25 letter. The main issue involves a $7,500 donation from Murfreesboro Mayor Shane McFarland in November 2022 to Tennesseans For Greater Accountability, the Political Action Committee. The PAC soon donated $7,500 to the campaign account of Smyrna Mayor Mary Esther Reed, Stevens wrote in his Registry letter.

The clerk’s office was scheduled to discuss Stevens’ request on March 26, but Chairman Henry “Hank” Fincher, with the approval of his board, decided to give the mayors and PAC representative Richard Cole more time to provide written responses to the letter of the legislature, Bill said. Young, the registry’s executive director.

The issue will be part of the Registry agenda for the May 28 meeting at 9:30 a.m. at the Tennessee Tower in downtown Nashville. Stevens’ letter suggested that the $7,500 donations, from McFarland to the PAC and from the PAC to Reed, occurred “on the exact same day,” November 23, 2022.

Campaign finance problem: Mayors of Murfreesboro, Smyrna face audit and investigation request from State Rep. Stevens

The PAC has since adjusted its online records on March 14 to show that McFarland made his $7,500 donation on November 15, 2022, followed by the PAC making a $7,500 donation to Reed’s campaign on November 22, 2022 . The Daily News Journal sent an email to Cole, the PAC representative, at 4:06 PM Tuesday, but he was not available for comment.

The PAC, which lists a Murfreesboro PO Box as its address, also made campaign donations of $2,000 each to Smyrna Vice Mayor Marc Adkins and fellow city council members HG Cole and Gerry Short on November 22, 2022. The PAC’s ending fund balance after the donations was just over $743, according to its amended 2022 fourth quarter report.

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Stevens, who is also an attorney, sent his letter to the clerk’s office before Smyrna voters considered a March 5 referendum, backed by Mayor Reed, on whether to eliminate a general sessions court in the city. The lawmaker’s sister, Judge Brittany Stevens, presides over the court that hears criminal cases after winning her eight-year term in August 2022 when he won the Republican Party’s primary for his seat in the Tennessee House of Representatives.

More than 71% of Smyrna voters opposed the plan to transfer criminal cases to the General Sessions Courts, located at the Rutherford County Judicial Center in downtown Murfreesboro.

Both mayors had suggested that Representative Stevens’ motive in requesting investigations and audits was in response to Smyrna officials’ attempts to eliminate its sister General Sessions Court.

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Mayor Reed Accuses Rep. Stevens of Pursuing ‘Personal Vendetta’

Mayor Reed responded Tuesday by emailing the following statement to The Daily News Journal:

“In 2022, I received a legal donation from a political action committee below the maximum contribution level. State Representative Robert Stevens stirred controversy over this donation due to Smyrna’s debate over continuing a General Sessions Court chaired by its sister, the City of Smyrna. If If voters had supported the March 5 Smyrna referendum, his sister would no longer have been guaranteed a new term as judge after 2030.

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“I believe Representative Stevens is trying to use his position as a state representative to weaponize a state agency against me and others for a personal vendetta. The complaint he filed was based on incorrect information. The file is accessible to everyone and it is visible to everyone. shows that everything was done in accordance with the electoral law.”

Mary Esther Reed

‘The people have spoken clearly’: Smyrna voters reject referendum to eliminate court

Mayor McFarland says his construction business partner pursued rezoning for Smyrna development before donation

McFarland’s donation in question came a few months after his longtime business partner Steven Dotson of DM Homes LLC won approval for the rezoning of a townhome project on nearly 7.4 acres following unanimous votes from the Smyrna City Council, including Mayor Reed during the August and September meetings in 2022. , the mayor of Murfreesboro confirmed.

“I had nothing to do with the zoning,” McFarland said, adding that he avoids talking to elected officials, planning officials or city managers about any development project his construction companies are pursuing. “No one even knew I was involved. I didn’t want to put unnecessary pressure on anyone.

“When construction starts, I’ll step in.”

Shane McFarland

Shane McFarland

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Mayor Reed supports McFarland’s vision for the development

Mayor Reed’s statement also confirmed McFarland’s account of the townhouse project.

“Regarding the development in Smyrna, it is important to note that neither the Planning Commission nor the City Council were aware of Shane McFarland’s involvement with DM Homes during the planning process,” Reed said. “However, regardless of this association, the project received unanimous support at all stages of the approval process.”

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The Smyrna City Council heard details about the DH Homes LLC plan from Rob Molchan, a landscape architect with Murfreesboro-based SEC (Site Engineering Consultants). The project included a Cedar Grove Village plan along Chaney Road to build 61 townhomes in Smyrna, on the city limits south of the adjacent La Vergne High School, according to public records obtained through a request by The Daily News Journal.

DM Homes LLC shares the same Murfreesboro address as Shane McFarland Construction. He and Dotson are also partners in Caroline Farms LLC, the owner of the rezoned Smyrna property, McFarland said.

This yellow map shows nearly 3.4 acres of land rezoned by the Smyrna City Council in 2022 for a development with 61 planned townhomes on the Smyrna border next to La Vergne High School.This yellow map shows nearly 3.4 acres of land rezoned by the Smyrna City Council in 2022 for a development with 61 planned townhomes on the Smyrna border next to La Vergne High School.

This yellow map shows nearly 8.5 acres of land rezoned by the Smyrna City Council in 2022 for a development with 61 planned townhomes on the Smyrna border next to La Vergne High School.

Letter from Stevens also asks questions about donations to McFarland

Stevens’ letter to the clerk also accused Mayor McFarland of violating the $1,600 limit on accepting campaign donations from individuals:

  • Five individual contributions, reported by McFarland in 2022 on June 16 and 20, to the mayor of Murfreesboro of $2,500 each, exceeding the maximum amount allowed by law by $900.

  • Two individual contributions, reported by McFarland in 2022 on June 16 and June 21, to the mayor of Murfreesboro of $2,000 each, exceeding the maximum amount allowed by law by $400.

Mayor McFarland issued the previous statement on the registry issue:

“It is the job of elected officials to admit when we make mistakes, and I have done my fair share. I have always been honest about everything I have ever done, and if I have made or made a mistake, it will never be intentional, and I will own it and fix that mistake. This example is no different.”

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Reach reporter Scott Broden with news tips or questions by emailing him at sbroden@dnj.com. To support his work at The Daily News Journal, please take out a digital subscription.

This article originally appeared in Murfreesboro Daily News Journal: Campaign Finance Issue on Mayors McFarland & Reed reset to May 28

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