Weekly Obsession: Caffeinate your council member

Tuesday, December 13, 2011 at 10:05pm

In the aftermath of the shrapnel bomb that was the Tennessee Waltz scandal, governments across the state reacted — mostly because they were told to — with sweeping changes to their ethics laws, imposing all sorts of new restrictions on how government officials dealt with lobbyists.

Metro was no different. Among the sweeping changes, a complete ban on council members accepting any sort of free food or drink from “anyone that has had, currently has or [is] likely to have a matter pending before Metro,” as council attorney Jon Cooper put it.

That’s not just a kibosh on the $150 meal at the steakhouse courtesy of some power-player at a white-shoe law firm.

It means no free doughnuts at the Rotary. No rubber chicken from the Kiwanians. No sandwiches from the Lions.

Councilman Charlie Tygard thought the rule was just plain draconian.

He proposed a change: permitting free food up to $25 per source per year, all to be disclosed. The change received final council approval last week.

In an October interview with The City Paper, Tygard played it as if this was a way to keep councilmen from coming off as ungrateful.

“Council members can’t go to a civic organization or to a homeowners’ association meeting now and legally accept any type of food item,” Tygard said. “I’m talking about coffee cakes or donuts. It’s a very uncomfortable situation.”

Far be it from us to cause undue embarrassment to the august members of the Metro Council down at the neighborhood association — presumably they don’t need any help.

Now, admittedly $25 isn’t a lot, and really, who’s changing their vote on a key issue with the promise of elegant cold cuts and crudités?

But, as always, it’s not impropriety, it’s the appearance thereof.

Since the outright ban went into effect, the wheels of Metro government haven’t ground to a halt with lawmakers passing out from hypoglycemia at every turn.

But now the council members can have their buffet paid for and not break the law — and they don’t have to deal with the unease of turning down a free meal.

Now the discomfort is with their constituents: wondering if the promise of reheated pork garnered somebody a sweet deal.

12 Comments on this post:

By: govskeptic on 12/14/11 at 7:23

Thanks for paying 75% of my health care for life, but could you give
me $25.00 for a cup of coffee? What a bunch of self-privileging
free loaders, with Tygard often leading the way! Disgusting

By: Left-of-Local on 12/14/11 at 8:48

Yeah this is kinda lame. That's not even a very good meal (or two). We're not exactly talking fancy-pants here, just a few trips to a grease-ball chain eatery. Seems it might as well be ZERO, and be a lot more honest.

By: WayneR on 12/14/11 at 9:27

Gov Skeptic reminded me:

GS>...with Tygard often leading the way! Disgusting

From my post of October 13, 2011:

WayneR on 10/13/11 at 6:31

Isn't this the same "Mr. Ethics" Charlie Tygard who funneled $10K dollars of taxpayer money to the Bellevue Exchange Club when he was, and still may be, the club treasurer?

To quote The Enclave:

Here is the list of tax dollars to non-profit organizations that Mr. Tygard leveraged (all were approved by the Metro Council with no debate--with the exception to the Bellevue Exchange Club request, which was delayed for several months after Metro Finance learned that Mr. Tygard was an officer of the club--and signed by the Mayor):

$1,000 to the YMCA
$10,000 to the Bellevue Exchange Club


Mr. Ethics, indeed.


The more things change......

By: bfra on 12/14/11 at 9:52

Anyone remember a "freebie" our councilpeople DIDN'T jump on?

By: Jughead on 12/14/11 at 1:27

$25.00 per source, thousands of sources, and I see lots of new legislation.

Buy a vote, $25.00 at a time. Sweet--love the transparency the Metro Council sets forth.

It's tea time in Nashville. Gonna get about 5000 of my Church members to put $25.00 towards repeal any stupid green legislation by the moronic council.

By: govskeptic on 12/14/11 at 4:02

As always the old saying still goes: "Once the camel gets his nose under
the tent the tail will surely follow.". Next Charlie and the other moochers
will want to bounce that 25 up to 100 (per course) !

By: bfra on 12/15/11 at 2:13

gov you got that right! $25 is just a stepping stone.

By: T-BONE on 12/15/11 at 10:15

"DO AS I SAY!..NOT AS I DO"! ...Work for the "government" and you are well taken care of. (Perks from heaven). So keep paying the high sales tax (food) and brace-up for even higher property taxes! And in the spirit of fellowship, learn to live on less so that your fellow brother government "worker" (lol) can have more...by GOD, it's only right! So shut up, pay up and leave the wealthy bribe payers alone!! If you don't like it then you can always move to China or closer Mexico!

By: Left-of-Local on 12/15/11 at 11:03

See? I can agree with all you Neocons. Zero. That's the number we need here.

Here's how to fix it:

Do away with all but about 12 districts, and pay the council members a FULL TIME wage. THEN, allow them itemize expenses like any corporation, but in this case it becomes public record, and THEN... they can let the voters judge them on the lunches they "write off", and the problem will gradually solve itself.

Mr. Joe Councilman better have as many Joe Sixpacks on his lunch roster as Joe Corporategoons...

By: yogiman on 12/15/11 at 1:21

I don't think the lobbyists would like to see me on the Council because I wouldn't accept a drink of water from one of them.

The Council is there to serve the people, not the corporations.

By: bfra on 12/15/11 at 3:46

yogi - With no brains or common sense, you would fit right in!

By: yogiman on 12/15/11 at 7:41

Guess I don't fit your uncommon sense category, bfra. Unlike you, I couldn't be bought out by a lobbyist when serving the people on a council.
It would sure be nice if you had brain enough to see what your favorite usurper is doing to our country. Yeah, its even your country, also, even though you don't have enough sense to understand what's going on.

Don't worry, though, you'll find out soon enough.