The Tennessee Ethics Commission has dismissed allegations made by Sheriff Jim Ruth against his election foe, Rep. Eric Watson.
Rep. Watson said in a press release that the board "found Ruth's allegations frivolous, without merit, and ruled against Jim Ruth."
He quoted Tennessee Ethics Registry member Hank Fincher as saying, "I view Jim Ruth's complaint as frivolous and a borderline abuse of process. To me it looks like a cheap-shot campaign gimmick, trying to make something out of nothing. I'd expect better from an officer of the law."
Rep. Eric Watson stated. "I have always stood for strong campaign ethics and finance laws for Tennessee and today's decision of the commission to dismiss Ruth's complaint as being without merit shows just that. One would expect Ruth to show up for this hearing. His failure to do so shows a complete lack of respect for the Tennessee Ethics commission, the citizens of Tennessee , the citizens of Bradley County, and further indicates he knew the allegations were frivolous, and nothing more then a cheap, dirty, political trick.
"The real losers in this process are the taxpayers that have to pay for a hearing on a frivolous charge that was simply another negative campaign trick of a desperate campaign that has nothing good to stand upon after four years in office. I will continue to meet our citizens and listen to their concerns as we look forward to how we can make Bradley County a safer and better place."
Sheriff Ruth had said in the letter to the board that he believes Rep. Watson "acted both unethically and even illegally" in his fundraising efforts.
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