The Tennessee Star’s Investigative Reporter Corinne Murdock Talks Follow up Questions to Metro Officials About COB Vetting Process
Live from Music Row Wednesday 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 Tennessee Star investigative reporter Corinne Murdock in the studio to discuss her follow up discoveries after reaching out to Metro officials regarding the vetting and eligibility of potential COB members.
Leahy: Joining us now is our ace Investigative Reporter Corinne Murdock. So we’re talking about how you report the news. And one thing I like about the way you do it is it’s a way it should be done. When we have a fact we verify the fact and then we ask the subject to respond. So in this particular case, we’re looking at the facts are surrounding the criminal history of Ovid Timothy Hughes who appeared before the Metro Council select committee on elections and appointments back on February 4th of 2004.
We have the transcript of that interview. Headline convicted felon, Ovid Timothy Hughes told Metro council members he was a registered voter. And you can listen to the tape. And Dave Rosenberg who is the city council member who is not responding to our calls. We’ve asked to invite him to come on in and explain why the Metro City Council is not properly vetting members of this community oversight board. 11 members.
There is a legal requirement and that legal requirement according to Tennessee laws is that you have to be a registered voter. If you go into this video clip, Chairman Rosenberg of this committee specifically asked Ovid Timothy Hughes this, “Are you a registered voter?” response from Hughes, “I am.” Well, there’s a problem with that. Tell us about the problem you discovered with that statement by I-Ovid Timothy Hughes.
Murdock: Well, he was convicted in 2008 for mail fraud.
Leahy: And there is a press release from the Department of Justice. Also, if you go to that story at the Tennessee Star, I just mentioned you can literally see we have embedded the Judgment in a criminal case United States of America versus Ovid Timothy Hughes. You found this with your research. And basically, the defendant was convicted of mail fraud. It’s a violation of US Code 1341. And he was sentenced to one year and one day in prison. Federal supervision. According to the US code if you are sentenced for more than one year, but less than five years that’s considered a Class E felony.
Leahy: So what did you do to find out whether or not he’s a registered voter?
Murdock: Well, I reach out through the Secretary of State’s office and they were pretty quickly able to tell me no. He’s not a registered voter. And then they confirmed because he was convicted of a felony.
Leahy: So they knew he was convicted of a felony in 2008.
Leahy: They confirmed and they removed him from the voter rolls.
Leahy: Okay. So a couple of things here about this. The law says you have to be a registered voter to serve on the community oversight board. The Metro Council apparently is not vetting anybody who’s serving on the board from what we can tell. You’ve tried to ask them about their vetting procedures. Tell us what has happened.
Murdock: I haven’t heard anything back. But apparently, if you submit your questionnaire late you’re disqualified or excluded from appointment consideration of appointment I should say.
Leahy: What we don’t know and we’re going to put in an open record request into the Metro clerk’s office. There’s a little issue called a sworn statement. In other words, if you make a false sworn statement before any committee or any governmental entity, that is a misdemeanor. It’s perjury. It’s a misdemeanor. In this particular case what we know is that the testimony was apparently given before the committee was not sworn testimony because we went back and looked at it and Chairman Rosenberg for whatever reason did not say do you swear that everything you say is true.
He just did an interview. So if it’s not a sworn statement, apparently you haven’t committed perjury. We don’t know if his questionnaire was a sworn statement at the bottom. Nonetheless, I mean if he was to be subject to possible perjury charges I doubt anybody in the city government attorney general or district attorney here would prosecute that because obviously, this guy is a social justice warrior.
And it appears to me we have a two-tiered justice system. You can get away with it if you are a social justice warrior, but if you’re anybody else you can’t. So who else have you talked to say, what kind of vetting procedures do you do for members to confirm they are actually are eligible to serve on this controversial community oversight board?
Murdock: Well two of the major players I’ve reached out to have been the vice mayor and I have also because he directly overseas a lot of this process with the appointments for this board. And then I’ve also reached out to the Executive Director Jill Fitcheard.
Leahy: Jill Fitcheard became the executive director when the previous executive director resigned in 2019 because it was too stressful for him. And so she’s served since 2019. The appointment of Ovid Timothy Hughes came under her watch it. So you would think because she served as a criminal investigator from 2008 to 2019 for the public defender that she would have knowledge about how to investigate people’s claims.
Murdock: Yeah, she hasn’t responded to me. Initially, she took my call. But then when she learned of what I relayed to her that he was potentially not a registered voter and it’s gone radio silence since then.
Leahy: You called her on Monday?
Murdock: No, last week.
Leahy: Last week you called her. Tell us what you asked in that conversation.
Murdock: I said were you aware that he is potentially not a registered voter? It appears that he might be a convicted felon. Were you aware of any of his criminal background and history?
Leahy: Him being Ovid Timothy Hughes who had resigned just a couple of days earlier from the community oversight board. And what was her response?
Murdock: She seemed a little shocked. To summary of our conversation, she said she wasn’t aware and she referred me to the clerk to get his resignation letter And that’s the last I’ve heard from her.
Leahy: So what did Ovid Timothy Hughes say in his resignation letter?
Murdock: Pretty much a couple of sentences saying thank you for everything. I’m resigning. it was very short. It was an it was in an email to the current chair. I think his name is Andres. I have to go back and look.
Leahy: Yeah, I think it’s what Andres Martinez or something like that.
Leahy: So he’s the chairman of it. He’s a volunteer member. This community oversight board authorized by a referendum approved by the voters in 2018. 58 percent to 42 percent, under the charter. they can do that. The law the state law allows Community oversight boards to investigate police misconduct.
They have taken that and gone far beyond that. And they’re looking into all sorts of ways to undermine the police by in my view, not yours, to constantly talk about allegations of systemic racism. And you know how it’s got to be changed, etc., etc. Seems to be a bunch of social justice warriors trying to undermine the police. Now, what’s interesting to me is that you did get one response late last night you said from somebody.
Murdock: I did. The Vice Mayor reached out to me.
Leahy: Vice-Mayor Shulman?
Murdock: Yes. And he said he’d reach out to me and said yes, he would be willing to speak but he didn’t respond to my questions. He said he would be willing to speak today.
Leahy: Okay. So this will be clever to see how he responds. What were your questions?
Murdock: So I asked him about their vetting process a little bit. I said, were you aware that of his criminal history?
Leahy: Of Ovid Timothy Hughes criminal history.
Murdock: Yes. Ovid Timothy Hughes criminal history. And also do you have any indication as to why he resigned because his letter didn’t state anything. And does your office knows any more information than what Ovid Timothy Hughes has already stated. And could you speak on the vetting process behind the board members that are granted the responsibility of overseeing police misconduct? And he simply said that he apologized for the delay in response and he asked if we wanted to talk today.
Leahy: Okay, so you are going to have a conversation with them. And we’ll see if he’ll be forthcoming. The other question I think to ask is are you going to confirm for a fact that everybody who serves is a registered voter? And the other thing is are you going to change your processes so that the information that they provide in their questionnaire and in their testimony before the Metro council is sworn so that if they tell a lie it is perjury. That’d be an interesting question to ask. We’ll see what the answers are tomorrow.
Listen to the full second hour here:
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Photo “Nashville City Hall” by euthman. CC BY-SA 2.0.