Leadership Project PAC, run by Blackhorse owners, raises over $20,000 to support City Council candidates | #students | #parents


CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. (CLARKSVILLENOW) – A new political action committee born out of the dispute between the city and Blackhorse Pub & Brewery has raised over $20,000 and is throwing support behind several City Council candidates.

The Leadership Project PAC has only two members: treasurer Jeff Robinson and his wife, Sherri Robinson, PAC organizer. The couple own and operate Blackhorse Pub & Brewery; they have a longstanding lawsuit against the city and have filed multiple ethics complaints against city officials.

Jeff Robinson told Clarksville Now that the PAC does not have a formal membership structure yet due to being formed late in the election cycle, but they are in the process of forming a board for the next cycle.

Who is the Leadership Project?

According to Robinson, Leadership Project’s “mission is simple: advocating for high-quality candidates for local office.”

Leadership Project has cited traffic, the construction of recreation facilities and increased funding for the Regional Planning Commission as issues of importance to them.

The PAC has endorsed multiple candidates through a Facebook page, primarily in City Council races. Candidates who have receive endorsements include Karen Reynolds in Ward 9, Margaret Thompson in Ward 4, Joe Shakeenab in Ward 12, Melissa Eldridge in Ward 5, Ashlee Evans in Ward 11 and Wanda Allen in Ward 8.

Critical of current leadership

The Leadership Project has also targeted city leaders who have stood in the way of a million-dollar settlement with Blackhorse.

Last week, the PAC sent out approximately 1,800 mailers criticizing Ward 4 City Councilman Tim Chandler.

The mailer makes several allegations against Chandler, claiming he has done little to address traffic issues, has ignored requests to build and improve parks and recreation facilities and has squandered taxpayer dollars.

“Tim Chandler voted to hire high-priced Nashville lawyers and has already spent $1.2 million in taxpayer money to fight a local business in a dispute over a downtown alley,” says the mailer.

The dispute mentioned in the mailer is the current lawsuit in which the Robinsons sought $800,000 in attorney fees. Chandler is one of the council members who voted in August against settling the lawsuit for $1.2 million.

A grand jury awarded the Robinsons $8,335 in 2019 plus attorney fees. Recently, Davidson County Circuit Court Judge Joseph P. Binkley Jr. concluded that a “reasonable fee award” is $30,000.

The mailer also references a recent resolution passed by the City Council allowing for the reimbursement of legal fees accrued by city officials in defense against ethics complaints should they be found innocent.

“Tim Chandler tried to cover (the ethics complaints) up by voting to retroactively apply his self-serving legislation,” says the mailer.

In fact, the resolution in question does not apply retroactively and applies only to future ethics complaints. Chandler also joined with several other councilmen in promising not to ask for or accept any reimbursement for legal fees related to current ethics complaints.

“This PAC is (Jeff Robinson’s) PAC,” Chandler told Clarksville Now. “I have got to defend myself. I have nothing left but my honor, and that’s all I can do is defend myself. He has filed four ethics complaints against me, and not one of them has any merit.”

Over $20,000 raised

According to disclosures filed with the state, Leadership Project has raised $20,250 since September. The money comes in the form of three contributions. Jeff Robinson contributed $10,000 to the group, as did Richview Center Partners. The remaining $250 was donated by a Greg Alley of Rogers, Arkansas.

Richview Partners refers to a partnership between Jeff Robinson and attorney Mark Olson.

Mark Olson of Olson & Olson represents Jeff Robinson in multiple legal matters involving the city, including Robinson’s ethics complaints against the City Council and Robinson’s lawsuit against the city, which is now in the appeals process.

Robinson said the bulk of the organization’s funds would be spent on online advertising and mailers.

$1,000 spent

As of Oct. 13, Leadership Project reported only one expense, a $1,000 contribution to the campaign of Ward 4 City Council candidate Margaret Thompson.

Thompson is running against incumbent Chandler and Wallace Redd, who has previously sat on both the City Council and County Commission.

Tim Chandler, Wallace Redd and Margaret Thompson

When asked about the contribution to her campaign, Thompson said she recognized the potential conflict of interest that the Blackhorse lawsuit could entail and, if elected, she would abstain from any future votes involving the case.

“I would have to (abstain). To me, that would be a conflict of interest,” Thompson said.

“Margaret Thompson is a good example of a person with integrity,” Robinson said. “We have no intention of offering any other settlement beyond the one resulting from the mediation. So Margaret Thompson should not have to miss out on too many votes.”

Robinson said on Tuesday that Thompson is the only candidate who has received a donation. The others have received Facebook endorsements.

Reynolds, Shakeenab and Eldridge had no comment on the PAC.

Allen and Evans had not returned messages seeking comment as of Wednesday.

Troubles with filing

While Leadership Project had filed as a political PAC, as of Tuesday they had not filed with Montgomery County, a requirement for any local PAC.

Robinson said he has spoken with Elizabeth Black, administrator of elections, and will be registering with the county.



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