Nashville Taxpayer Protection Attorney Jim Roberts Expects Metro Legal to Sue Election Commission and Petition Signers to Stop Referendum

Nashville Taxpayer Protection Attorney Jim Roberts Expects Metro Legal to Sue Election Commission and Petition Signers to Stop Referendum


Live from Music Row Friday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. –  host Leahy welcomed Nashville attorney Jim Roberts to the newsmakers line to update listeners on the current events surrounding the Nashville Taxpayer Protection Act with expectations that Metro Legal will sue.

Leahy: On the newsmaker line right now, our very good friend, Jim Roberts, the lawyer behind the Nashville Taxpayer Protection Act. He’s got the petition signed and waiting to see if it’s going to be put on the ballot. What, Jim, is the latest news to roll back the Nashville property tax 34 percent increase? Where does that amendment that charter amendment stand?

Roberts: Where we are today is that we believe that the Election Commission is going to meet next Tuesday or Wednesday, sometime early next week, and they will be voting to place it on the ballot. Because of the delays caused by the Metropolitan government stalling and delaying tactics, it’s not going to be on the June 14th date that we have selected.

But it’ll probably be mid-July. Metro is doing everything they can to stall this so they can get the budget process done and not have to be constrained by the petition itself. I don’t think that’s going to work, but that’s what they’re trying to do now.

Leahy: Why is it taking so long for the Election Commission? Five members, three Republicans, two Democrats. They have got to formally decide to accept the verification of your signatures. You had the 12,000 or so required. You had over 14,000. Have all of those 14,000 been verified as the Metro clerks office said? That they’re over the number needed? And when will this come on the agenda? And do you expect a three to two vote in your favor?

Roberts: The number they verify is really only the number they need. If you turned in a million signatures, they would still only verify 12,000 or something. Once they hit the number needed, they stop. The Election Commission has admitted that we have sufficient signatures. The next step is really just a vote to put it on the ballot. And we do expect that to happen early next week.

Metro has caused a lot of trouble here. They have threatened to sue the Election Commission and sue the citizens to try to stop this. They just absolutely don’t want it. They don’t want these citizens to have a right to vote on it. The Metro Department of Law has prepared a very dishonest legal memorandum and very self-serving. They are trying to explain why people shouldn’t get to vote on it.

Fortunately for all of us, the Election Commission hired its own independent council instead of hiring lackeys that Metro picked out, they hire their own counsel. And we were very confident that the counsel knows that this is right. The people should have a right to vote on it. And that’s just the way our society is. We don’t let the government tell us what we get to vote on in America.

Leahy: You say that what’s going on right now is that the Metro Legal Department is threatening to sue. Do you expect them to sue if next week the Davidson County Election Commission decides to put this on the ballot for the voters to decide probably in July?

Roberts: I think they will. I think they have no choice. They are truly so desperate to keep people from voting on this that they will sue the citizens. We made it harder for them, to be honest with you. We had originally followed a lawsuit because we thought they weren’t counting the votes. And we dismissed that lawsuit because they have verified the signatures. And so now it’s Metro again. Metro is going to have to file a lawsuit and they will have to Sue the election Commission and Sue the citizens if they want to stop this. And they probably will. They’re that dishonest.

Leahy: So next week, we think likely the Davis County Election Commission will approve the referendum and approve putting it on the ballot in July. You think that’s likely correct?

Roberts: That’s the first thing. There are certain things that have to be done, like military ballots and mail-out ballots. I mean, it’s just a timeline and because Metro stalled them so long, we could no longer have the June 14 date. When the citizens put forth a petition, we have to pick a date.

Leahy: Got it.

Roberts: The petition says on a space the date. But the Election Commission does have the authority to move that date around.

Leahy: Yeah, we got that. After they make that choice, you expect Metro Legal to file a lawsuit. Also, attorney Jamie Hollin who represents the Nashville Business Coalition has indicated he intends to file a lawsuit as well. Do you expect such a lawsuit to be filed after that likely decision?

Roberts: Attorney Holland is certainly a fine attorney, but I think he likes to be on TV more than he does in court. They don’t have a lawsuit. They don’t have any basis to stop the citizens from having a right to vote on this. I’d be very surprised that he would embarrass himself by filing a lawsuit. Metro doesn’t care. They’re desperate. The Nashville Business Coalition, there is no reason for them to embarrass themselves.

Leahy: The Metro Legal Department is happy to embarrass itself and other potential plaintiffs, perhaps less so.

Roberts: That’s our expectation. As you know, there has been some sort of secret groups out there trying to gather withdrawals of signatures. All of that has been done illegally. I doubt those people stick their heads up because of all the federal laws they’re broken. But I expect they will try to get in the media and try to make some noise. The bottom line is we gathered enough signatures. We followed the law and the citizens deserve the right to vote on this. They can vote no. And I’m sure that’s what Metro Legal wants, but in the end, the people deserve to vote on it. This is democracy. We have a right to vote on it.

Leahy: What are the odds that the lawsuit that you anticipate from Metro Legal will stop the likely July vote of the citizens on this charter amendment to roll back property taxes by the 34 percent increase from 2019?

Roberts: We did everything that the Chancellor told us that we should have done. Whether the Chancellor was right or not, that we just let it go and we said, what did the Chancellor say we should have done and once we did that, Metro Legal doesn’t have a leg to stand on. They are simply nitpicking. And that’s really the word for it. Nitpicking.

Leahy: I guess you would say that you would think it’s likely then that this will be on the ballot in July?

Roberts: I say there is a 99 percent chance. They will vote next Tuesday or Wednesday. The Election Commission knows it’s not their job to stop people from voting  If you think about it the default is people get to vote. The default is people get to run for office. And the default in voter petitions is that people get to vote on them.

There’s no basis to say there’s some sort of incredibly strict rules, and we’ll do everything we can to prevent people from voting. That’s what Metro legal wants. But that’s not what the law is.

Listen to the full third hour here:

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Tune in weekdays from 5:00 – 8:00 a.m. to the Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy on Talk Radio 98.3 FM WLAC 1510. Listen online at iHeart Radio.
Background Photo “Nashville City Hall” by euthman. CC BY-SA 2.0.






Nashville Taxpayer Protection Act: Attorney Jim Roberts Updates on Verified Petition Signatures and Election Commission Stall Tactics

Nashville Taxpayer Protection Act: Attorney Jim Roberts Updates on Verified Petition Signatures and Election Commission Stall Tactics


Live from Music Row Friday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. –  host Leahy welcomed Nashville attorney Jim Roberts to the newsmakers line to give updates on the validation of sufficient petition signatures needed for the Davidson County Election Committee to vote and why they are stalling.

Leahy: On the newsmakers line, our good friend attorney Jim Roberts, the guy behind the Nashville Taxpayer Protection Act. Good morning, Jim.

Roberts: Good morning. How are you all doing on this beautiful day?

Leahy: Well, we’re doing great. Tell us where this charter amendment to roll back the property tax of 34 percent based upon the assessed value of the properties. Where does this stand?

Roberts: Well, we’re moving the ball down the field. As some of your listeners probably know last Friday, the mayor went on the offensive and tried to fool people into thinking that he was going to be lowering the tax rate so we wouldn’t have to have any sort of Nashville Taxpayer Protection Act. I think that backfired on him. He was clearly not telling the truth to people. We’re moving forward. The Election Commission has now finally voted and acknowledged what we all knew, which was the August election last year is the election that it’s based on. And they’ve admitted we have enough signatures.

Leahy: Have they confirmed that you have enough signatures to get on the ballot?

Roberts: They have. They confirmed that we had 12,300 and something signatures. And they have said that all we were required to have was 12,100.

Leahy: Have they officially said, you have enough? You have passed the test on signatures. You will be on the ballot. Have they communicated that to you?

Roberts: No. What they said is we had enough signatures, but they didn’t vote to put it on the ballot. For some reason, they are holding that up.

Leahy: When will that happen?

Roberts: Well, we thought it was going to happen yesterday actually. We are not sure why the Election Commission is dragging its feet. We think it’s because the opposition is gearing up to Litigate and they’re expecting to get sued and they want to wait to see if anybody follows them a lawsuit. As you know, there have been some secret groups put together using phony names to contact and harass people who signed the petition.  And there’s been a real concerted effort of that to intimidate people. I don’t think it worked very well. But at least they’re trying very hard to intimidate people who signed the petition.

Leahy: But there’s a reason.

Carmichael: Jim, are you saying then that officially the Election Commission has ruled that you have met the number of signatures requirements? So is that now done?

Roberts: No. The commissions and bodies like that operate through their votes. So they have said in the meeting that we have enough signatures, but they haven’t voted to put it on the ballots. I don’t know why. It doesn’t make any sense.

Carmichael: So they haven’t voted that you have enough signatures either. Can the opposition still get people to unsign and then present those to the Commission? And then the Commission then changes their mind and says, well, it looks like, Jim, that you now don’t have enough signatures. Can they still do that?

Roberts: Well, there’s no provision in the law to do that. But these folks aren’t really obeying the law. They don’t really care. Part of the way they gather the signatures is like getting a secret copy of the database that was released to them prior to the public knowing. And we know this for a fact now that they were given a copy and that they use that to reach out to people.

There is no provision for, quote, unquote withdrawing a signature. We actually have several hundred more signatures that we could turn in that came in after the day we turned them in. So if they want to get into the, well I want to withdraw the signature game, and we’re going to say, well, look, we got more people who want to turn in signatures.

Leahy: Jim, we have a story, the transcript of the attorney, Jamie Hollin who, you know, who’s representing the Nashville Business Coalition. On Saturday, he made a case. He spoke to the Election Commission, and I think he alleged that some of the signatures were not valid. And there was a problem with the verification process. Have you followed that? Is that a factor in this at all?

Roberts: Well, of course, we expect him to say that because he’s against it. The opposition of this is going to do everything they can to nitpick this step, can submit, pick this death, and no other valid initiative ever been. It fixes as much as this one. And it’s because, of course, the mayor doesn’t want it on the ballot. One of their argument is to say that somehow the addresses aren’t the way they want them. What Jamie Hollin sort of glosses over is that the Metro Charter doesn’t require me to gather or 4 Good Government to gather any addresses. All it requires is the voter’s signature. So to go in there and argue that somehow the address wasn’t the way he liked it is just patently dishonest.

Leahy: But Here’s the problem. There is a red flag here. The Election Commission has not voted formally to say you have enough signatures. And do you know when they will meet next and when they will make that vote?

Roberts: We certainly expected it yesterday, actually. No, I don’t know. They announce their meetings about two days in advance, and we’re just waiting to hear that. There is nothing wrong with those signatures. This is just pro-tax people trying to undermine the public confidence in this.

Leahy: But don’t they have a timeline in which they have to review these signatures?

Roberts: Absolutely. They absolutely do. And they are running out of time. The Election Commission is running out of time because how much time do they have approved?

Carmichael: How much time do they have? What is the time limit?

Roberts: I believe they have about another eight days because the ballot has to be approved by the State Election Commission and then it has to be mailed out. We have early voting. We have overseas ballots. There’s more to it than just having an election on that day. It is my belief that the mayor is putting tremendous pressure on certain election commissioners and that there are people who just don’t want people to vote on it. Remember, the whole goal here is to get it on the ballot to let the citizens vote on it.

Leahy: But haven’t they publicly stated that they verified more than the 12,000? Has that been publicly stated?

Roberts: They said that on August eighth, actually.

Leahy: So why not the vote? Why not the vote? What’s going on there?

Roberts: Unfortunately, I’m not on the election Commission, so I can’t tell you that. Again, I think they are being pushed to stall in delay because possibly Jamie Holland or other Protax forces are going to try to file some sort of preemptive lawsuit.

Leahy: What are the odds? What’s the likelihood that within eight days, the National Davidson County Election Commission meets and says the National Taxpayer Protection Act has met the standard, and it will be on the ballot? What’s the probability that will happen?

Roberts: We think it’s 100 percent. We already admitted that we have the signatures. They verify the signatures. This is just game playing at this point.

Carmichael: Does it make any sense if you’ve got six to 800 or 1,000 or whatever it is additional signatures, if the other side is trying to reduce the number that you turned in before during this time period before the official announcement, does it make any sense for you to turn in the hundreds of additional signatures that you have so that they would then rule, I’m sorry Jim you can’t turn any additional signatures. Wouldn’t that strengthen your position? Well, if you can’t turn in any additional signatures, then the opposition can’t subtract any signatures.

Roberts: Well, you’re way ahead of we were giving them to yesterday to have a vote to see what happens. And you’re absolutely right. That is our next step to go ahead and turn those signatures in. And I would note to your listeners, the Election Commission has said that they have to be a little over 12,000 signatures. We believe that’s wrong. That’s based on the number of people entirely devoted. But a lot of those people voted in a state and federal primary back in August. Only about 93,000 people voted in the election that matter.

Leahy: Jim Roberts, thank you so much for joining us today. We really appreciate it. Come back next week and give us an update if you would please.

Roberts: I’ll do it.

Listen to the full third hour here:

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Tune in weekdays from 5:00 – 8:00 a.m. to the Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy on Talk Radio 98.3 FM WLAC 1510. Listen online at iHeart Radio.








Nashville Taxpayer Protection Act: Attorney Jim Roberts Comes Up with More Petitions Than Legally Needed, Metro Legal Moves Goalpost

Nashville Taxpayer Protection Act: Attorney Jim Roberts Comes Up with More Petitions Than Legally Needed, Metro Legal Moves Goalpost


Live from Music Row Friday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. –  host Leahy welcomed Nashville attorney Jim Roberts to the newsmakers line to discuss his receipt of more than enough signed petitions to put the Nashville Taxpayer Protection Act on the ballot yet informs of Metro Legals attempts to change the rules.

Leahy: We are joined on our newspaper line by the triumphant Jim Roberts. Good morning, Jim.

Roberts: Good morning, sir. How are you doing today?

Leahy: So tell us what you did yesterday afternoon.

Roberts: Well, we were very excited. Yesterday we went down to the courthouse and handed over to the Metro Clerk more than sufficient signatures to place the Nashville Taxpayer Protection Act on the ballot. And they were waiting for us, even though we didn’t tell them we were coming, they knew we were coming. And they already had the forms ready. And it was just a wonderful feeling to unload those thousands and thousands and thousands of petitions with the signatures on them.

Leahy: I saw the picture. You had a lot of them. Now the number that you submitted was a little over 14,000. Is that correct?

Roberts: That’s right. 14,000 valid signatures.

Leahy: Now, there’s a little dispute coming on what the right number is. Tell us what your interpretation of the Metro charter is as to what the number needs to be.

Roberts: Certainly. There was a little confusion first, because, quite honestly, the Election Commission was putting out some incorrect information. And it’s really all based on how many people voted in the last general election. And that term general election is defined as the last Metro election.

Leahy: And let me just pause here for a moment. When people use the term general election, the general election for state and federal offices was held in November 2020.

Roberts: That’s right.

Leahy: But the general election for Metro Nashville County government offices was at the August of 2019 election?

Roberts: No, it was the August of 2020 election.

Leahy: And the charter says you need 10 percent. And so what is 10 percent of the August 2020 general election?

Roberts: About 11,500 signatures.

Leahy: And you turned in 14,000.

Roberts: That’s right.

Leahy: So game over right? If they get approved by the Metro clerks, you should be on the ballot except your counterpart accept. And now we have the rest of the story. (Roberts chuckles) Jeff Roberts, no relation to you. Jim Roberts is the election administrator for Davidson County. He says no. He says when they say general election, they mean the November 2020 general election for federal and state offices. And 10 percent of that number is 32,000. He said in an article in The Tennesseean where he said he’s going to challenge you. What happens next?

Roberts: Well, what’s going to happen is that we’re actually going to fail a lawsuit Monday. I must admit I didn’t expect this sort of legal shenanigans that we had last time. The unbelievable dishonesty of the Metropolitan government in the department of law. I was caught off guard by that. We’re not really going to put up with that nonsense.

The law is very clear. In fact, Metro argued in a very similar situation that it would have been the August election, not just two years ago when the Community Oversight Board referendum was on the ballot it was Metro that argued that the prior August selection was the right election and that Metro argued that the intervening federal election didn’t count.

That was Metro’s argument. And I expected them to be hypocrites and to change their position. But the law is completely clear. This case is less than two years old, and it says very clearly that the November federal and state election isn’t the election you count from. So Jeff is just wrong. And either he doesn’t know he’s wrong or he doesn’t care he’s wrong.

Carmichael: Are you going to file for a declaratory judgment on Monday?

Roberts: That is probably what we’ll do. If you remember last time that the Election Commission stalled and delayed. We found out that Metro legal was meeting illegally and secretly with the Election Commission to conspire against the voters. We’re not going to put up with that nonsense this time. My goal is to file for a declarative action and an injunction prohibiting Metro legal from engaging in any more unethical behavior. We’re going to make it very clear that this is serious. This is what the people want, and we’re not going to have a lot of illegal and unethical behavior by the Metropolitan government to try to stop it.

Carmichael: When you say this is what people want what you’re really saying is people want to have a right to have a say on their own tax rates. Now whether or not they want to have them or not. If this vote goes against the way that you would like it to, you’re still satisfied with that as a result, because the people have spoken. Is that accurate?

Roberts: Absolutely. And obviously, I hope they look for these six good things because they’re all good government amendments but I want to put it in the people’s hands. They have a right. This is what’s so dishonest about what Metro legal is doing. It is that they’re not just trying to say it’s a bad idea they’re trying to prevent and have been trying to prevent the people from voting on it. And when your government is telling you, you don’t get to vote on something that should bother everybody. And it bothers me a lot.

Leahy: So, Jim, the precedent you’re talking about, tell me if I’ve got it right. So the controversial Community Oversight Board, which was placed on the ballot because community groups gathered signatures that were more than 10 percent

Carmichael: Of the previous August.

Leahy: Previous August general election back in 2018. And they got it on like 1,500 signatures or something at 10,000. And I think the number was 8,500 or something like that. And the fraternal order of police filed a lawsuit that went through many, many cases and many iterations. And they said, no, that’s not enough. It needs to be the general election in the November election. Metro legal argued, no no no it has to be August in that. Do I have that right?

Roberts: That’s exactly right. That’s what they ordered. The phrase in the charter says proceeding general election. So in a sort of legal way, there was a dispute. What does proceeding general election mean? Well, one of the bills is very clear. In an election just Metro offices are being decided, not just people in Davidson County are voting but a true Metro election. And that was August of 2016 in that particular case. And for us, it’s August 2020. Metro knows this, and they’re just purposely spreading false information.

Leahy: So it’s interesting. They argue that it should have been the August election back to get the Community Oversight Board referendum on the ballot. It got on the ballot and was passed by the voters. Now we have a community oversight board. Are they going to literally make exactly the opposite argument when you go to court to get this on the ballot?

Roberts: Not only do I expect them to do that, which is incredibly dishonest, but one of the things that they argued in the oversight board case was that the people should have a right to go ahead and vote on it. And if there’s a problem with it, that can be determined later in court. But they should let the people vote on it. They were all about letting the people vote on that referendum. I am pretty certain that they won’t be as happy about letting people vote on this one.

Carmichael: Well, you’re going to see. I think that the strategy of filing for a declaratory judgment to move the thing along quickly is probably the wise course of action because the last time you kind of you waited for them, and now they’ve already pretty much said they’re going to sue over this. So you’re going to sue first and bring it to a head quickly.

Roberts: That’s right.

Carmichael: It will be interesting to see how the judge rules given the other recent ruling.

Roberts: That’s right. That gives us more time. If you remember last time they said they were going to sue and they never did. I finally had to sue Metro to force them to put it on the ballot because they clearly had no intention of actually doing anything. They just wanted to sort of stall and delay. We’re going to go forward.

I’d like to do it today, but I just think I’ve got too much work to do to get it done today. But maybe Monday or Tuesday or at the latest next week. We’re going to force Metro to put this on the ballot. The people deserve the right to vote on it. And if they vote yes on some of these, and no on some of these, that’s fine. I’ve given the people the opportunity to vote. They’re all good and they all should be voted for. But people’s minds differ sometimes.

Leahy: When do you think that the chancery court, which is, I guess where this will go, when do you think they would rule on whether your numbers right or the other number is right?

Roberts: We’ll file everything on an expedited basis. We’ll be pushing this very quickly. Almost certainly when Metro loses, they’re going to want to go to the court of appeals to try to tie up our resources. And remember, they’re using your tax dollars to fight this. They have unlimited resources to spend. They probably spent two or 300,000 dollars last time trying to keep you off the vote. I don’t think they won’t spend that or more.

Leahy: Yes, probably. They want to just nip it in the bud, that’s for sure.

Carmichael: Do you know which judge you’ll get?

Roberts: No, it’s supposed to be random. I do tend to get Chancellor Lyle more often than not, but it’s supposed to be random.

Carmichael: How many chancellor court judges are there?

Roberts: There are four.

Leahy: Okay, so you got four chances. Jim Roberts come back next week at the same time. Tell us what’s happened. Thanks so much for joining us. Thanks for all your hard work to roll back the 34 percent property tax with the Nashville Taxpayer Protection Act. Jim, thanks for joining us.

Roberts: Thank you for having me. Have a good day.

Listen to the full third hour here:

– – –

Tune in weekdays from 5:00 – 8:00 a.m. to the Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy on Talk Radio 98.3 FM WLAC 1510. Listen online at iHeart Radio.
Background Photo “Nashville City Hall” by Nicolas Henderson. CC BY 2.0.