Nashville has a problem. A DA problem.
On January 15, 2014, Torry Johnson announced he would retire as Nashville’s District Attorney. Johnson served as the DA for Davidson County for nearly 28 years. During a recorded retirement statement, he formally endorsed then Assistant DA Rob McGuire as the person he wanted to see elected to fill the position of DA. In the video embedded in the link above, Johnson says he “(didn’t) know if anyone else would get in the race” and then reiterates his support for Rob McGuire.
Well, someone else did get into that race for DA, and that other person ended up winning. Glenn Funk.
Mr. Funk has been under some scrutiny in the news over the past month. You may have seen or heard something about it, but if you haven’t, don’t be surprised. The coverage hasn’t been non-stop, and the cause for his newsworthiness is not a simple matter. Even so, it should be regarded a matter of great consequence to the citizens of Davidson County.
It is at this point in the story the people of Davidson County should thank God for Phil Williams. The reason Mr. Funk finds himself in this position is that upon being elected to succeed DA Johnson, he was given a “favor” in order to earn additional pension funds. This deal was discovered by News Channel 5 reporter Phil Williams and brought to light in a series of articles beginning with this one on February 9, 2015. I’ll attempt to link all of them here.
Despite the statements made in the past few days by Mr. Funk, this is not something we should brush aside. The role of District Attorney General is very simple; The DAG and his or her staff prosecute all criminal cases on behalf of the citizens of the State of Tennessee. This is a big deal. This person represents the city/county in all criminal matters in one way or another. The DAG is elected and holds the position for an eight-year term. This is a serious job.
You can see Mr. Funk here, given the title of “Honorable.” We’ll see about that.
This is no small issue. Funk reportedly asked retiring DA Johnson to step aside early so that he could have an opportunity to participate in a more profitable pension deal that would expire (June 2014) before his term officially began (Sept 2014), and DA Johnson said no. So, instead of doing the honorable thing, accepting that he would not have the chance to participate in the pension deal ending in June of 2014, it seems Mr. Funk found another way. Wally Kirby, the head of the Tennessee District Attorney’s General Conference, offered the sweetheart deal to Mr. Funk (who I assume graciously accepted), and then resigned after being caught.
Here’s a brief timeline for you. Some of this information may help you understand how these events shook out, and where we are now.
I wonder how Diane Lance has felt over the past few weeks, knowing she invested $150,000 of her own money to a campaign that finished a distant third behind Funk and McGuire. She was able to repay a small portion of her loan at some point, but ended up writing off over $148,000 of the loan in Q4-2014. That’s no small sum. Funk, on the other hand, was able to repay his own $100,000 loan in its entirety before the end of Q3-2014.
After Funk was confronted with Williams’ findings he said,
All of my actions were authorized, legal and ethical,” Funk told The Tennessean on Wednesday. “The retirement system matter is already being examined by the appropriate authorities.
Funk’s tagline during the election was “I know the difference between a bad person and a good kid in trouble.” Based on recent events, I think I disagree with Mr. Funk on his perceieved ability to recognize someone as good or bad. I’m also interested in learning who these “appropriate authorities” are, and what their findings include. We will see if that is ever made public.
After Williams’ reports emerged, and some pressure had been applied, Funk announced he would be giving back the money he was paid ($4,000 for two months ) and that he would be enrolling in the appropriate pension plan. These actions paved the way to him avoiding an appearance before a State Senate committee to answer for his actions. That is a decision disappointing to those of us wanting answers rather than half-apologies for his actions.
To his credit, Bill Freeman’s campaign responded to a question I posed on Twitter by saying that he supported Funk, praised him for returning the ill-gotten money, and called it a testament to his character……..
Bill Freeman is running to serve as the Mayor of Nashville, saying what this man did was a testament to his character. At this time, Freeman is the only candidate who has responded to the question. That only one candidate responded is disappointing to me, and not because they didn’t respond to my tweet. If our mayoral candidates do not believe the conduct of our elected DA worthy of comment, we have some underlying issues that clearly need to be addressed. If they support someone whose conduct was in “apparent conflict” with state law, how can we trust him to uphold the law in his elected position?
Oh, yeah, one more thing – after Mr. Funk hired away Judge Holt’s court officer, Judge Holt hired Mr. Funk’s wife as his court officer. Not illegal, certainly nepotistic. No other candidates were interviewed. Her background is as a stay-at-home mother and substitute teacher. When asked if he recommended her for the position, Funk is quoted as saying,
“I’m not sure how much conversation we had at that point after she had the conversation with Judge Holt, but I imagine there was some conversation,” the DA said. “And I give my wife my highest recommendation.”
I can only imagine that “there was some conversation.”
What makes this thing entire more interesting is that two of the 2015 candidates for Mayor of Nashville gave money to the Glenn Funk for DA campaign; Bill Freeman ($3,000) and Charles Robert Bone ($1,500). As far as I know, neither have requested that he refund those contirbutions.
Additionally, remember the man that placed second to Glenn Funk? Rob McGuire? His brother, Sean McGuire, is a sitting Metro Councilman (note; I live in McGuire’s council district but have never met him). He is currently serving as the Finance Chair for Bill Freeman’s mayoral campaign.
Here’s a guy whose brother lost an election to a Funk, a man we now know is an unethical DA, and he’s treasurer for a candidate who supported Funk’s candidacy in a big way (Freeman’s wife also gave $3,000 to the Funk campaign). I can’t help but wonder what he thinks about all of this. I wonder what his brother thinks about it.
Anyway, consider this my second call for DA Glenn Funk to resign his position. It would be a valuable addition to our mayoral election to see what the candidates think about this, and how they would respond to a similar incident as Mayor of Nashville. I think the voters of Davidson County could take a lesson from those responses, and maybe even vote accordingly.
Blog Update: March 26, 2015
While writing this post late in the evening on March 25, 2015, I neglected to mention one other thing. While he was preparing to take office and working under this sweetheart deal, Glenn Funk continued to take on new clients. That happens to be a violation of the law, based on this article.