Bradley County Sheriff Jim Ruth says in a letter to a state campaign board that he believes Rep. Eric Watson "acted both unethically and even illegally" in his fundraising efforts.
Rep. Watson is running against the incumbent sheriff.
Here is the Ruth letter:
January 15, 2014
Bureau of Ethics and Campaign Finance
404 James Robertson Parkway, Ste. 104
Nashville, TN 37243
Dear committee members,
I am writing you concerning my opponent, Eric Watson’s fundraising. I believe he has acted both unethically and even illegally.
State Representative Eric Watson told some of his friends before the 2012 state election that he was going to run for Bradley County Sheriff in 2014. He this to told Ralph Creel, who says he is going to be Eric Watson’s chief deputy. Watson told this close circle not to publicize this fact before he was re-elected as state representative. Since he had only token opposition, I believe he didn’t want this information out because it may restrict his fund raising opportunities; knowing he was going to use it to run for sheriff.
When Eric Watson was terminated from the Bradley County Sheriff’s Office in 2011 he told the Cleveland Daily Banner that he was leaving to help his father who was injured the year before. The chief deputy sheriff and the major over personnel met with Watson and told him that he was terminated for cheating on his time sheet and for lying.
Earlier this year Watson stated in a federal court deposition that he was fired because he was going to run for sheriff. Watson was being deposed in a lawsuit by a former employee that I fired for exposing himself to neighborhood children by cutting grass wearing his underwear. The federal judge ruled in my favor.
The point I am making is that Watson says he was running for sheriff all along and yet continued to collect tens of thousands of dollars toward a state representative race.
Enclosed is a brochure advertising fund raiser for the state representative race. At this fund raiser he announced that he was running for the office of sheriff.
At lest two of his donors have stated they did not give him money to be used in a sheriff’s race.
I believe Watson acted fraudulently, knowing that the rules governing the state representative race are far more lax than the rules for the sheriff’s race. The maximum amounts raised for a state representative are almost limitless and donors are hidden by PAC groups and those donors are not as accountable as those in the local county race.
I appreciate your consideration of these facts. I would be willing to answer any questions you may have about this matter.
Sheriff Jim Ruth
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Rep. Watson said, "It is regretful that the Ruth/Bird Administration is deciding to run a negative campaign rather than on their own record. But Mr. Ruth doesn’t have a good record.
"I am really not surprised by the attacks from the Bird/Ruth campaign. I expect it to get worse as we move closer to the primary. The attacks are just a way to divert attention away from issues like our high crime rate and low solvability rate in Bradley County.
"For my part, our campaign will focus on my productive ideas and plans to improve the overall service and operation of the Bradley County Sheriff’s Office.
"I do not want to waste everyone’s time and feed confusion by responding every time the Bird/Ruth Administration runs an untruthful and misleading campaign ad.
"I am not going to engage into negative campaigning like the Bird/Ruth Administration has chosen to do. I promise to stay on the high road.
"I am honored to represent the great folks of Bradley County. I have been elected to do the people's business in our state's capitol and I am busy doing just that.
"Raising money and gaining support is usually a reflection of your record and effectiveness. I am receiving a great deal of support in this race to serve as Bradley County Sheriff. I am very aware and fully compliant with all election and fundraising laws."