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Nolensville Police Chief Roddy Park faces the crowd and speaks directly to the citizens during the Nov. 3, 2022, Nolensville Board of Commissioners meeting, apologizing for his actions in 2020 that led to an ethics investigation

The fallout from the ethics investigation into members of the Town of Nolensville’s Board of Commissioners and staff, including Nolensville Police Chief Roddy Parker, took center stage during Thursday night’s BOC meeting, ultimately ending with no censure of the commissioners in question and no discipline handed out to Parker. However, an external investigation of the ethics review will be recommended to the District Attorney’s office.

That 10-page ethics review by the law firm Taylor, Pigue, Marchetti & Blair, which represents the town of Nolensville, determined that Parker did violate both Tennessee state law and the town’s ethics policy and that both Vice Mayor Wendy Cook-Mucci and Commissioner Lisa Garramone also violated the town’s ethics policy.

The ethics review stems from three separate incidents in 2020 in which Cook-Mucci and Garamone were both issued traffic tickets, which were later “nullified” by Parker, and another incident where Garamone approached the scene of a motor vehicle crash investigation being conducted by NPD that she was not involved in.

All three of these interactions were recorded on police body cameras, footage which was published by News Channel 5, with the Cook-Mucci’s driving offense being running a stop sign and Garramone’s offense being speeding.

Garramone’s second interaction at the scene of a motor vehicle crash actually occurred two months earlier and officers are heard in the recordings saying that Garramone was “drunk” when she approached the scene of the crash, although she was never cited or investigated for public intoxication or a DUI in that incident.

Those videos were posted on YouTube and deleted before they were reposted on a Rumble page called “nolensvilleltruth."

LAWSUIT

The release of those videos and other documents sparked a lawsuit by Garramone against former Nolensville Aldermen Tommy Dugger, Jason Patrick and Joe Curtsinger as well as Nolensville citizen Bobby Blevins.

That complaint alleges that the defendants have colluded against Garramone by conducting a smear campaign in order to stop her reelection next week in the Nov. 8 general election.

"Given the proximity of these public allegations and the election, Plaintiff's [Garramone] re-election campaign and reputation have been irreparably harmed by the Defendants' widespread dissemination of false and misleading statements against her," the complaint reads.

Dugger spoke during the public comments section of Thursday night's meeting but did not address the ethics complaint and review.

Candidates Kate Cortner and Jessica Salamida are running for the two town commission seats, one being Garramone's current seat, the other that of Cook-Mucci who is not running for reelection.

OCT. 24 BOC MEETING 

"At the time Chief Parker did it, he didn't know it was a violation of state law," TPMB Law partner Charles Michels said in the Oct. 24 Nolensville BOC meeting. "He thought that until it was actually filed with the court, it could be changed. As noted, that's not the case."

"Just like Commissioner Garramone, regardless of whether Commissioner Cook-Mucci knew that she was receiving any type of gift or other consideration or having the fine revoked, all that matters is that you receive it under the ethics policy, and the same, you know, whether somebody could think that could be an attempt to influence you."

BOC members, Mayor Derek Adams, and Commissioners Halie Gallik and Joel Miller said in that meeting that they wanted to have some dedicated time to review the ethics report and the related videos to determine if outside counsel should conduct an independent ethics review.

"I'm going to be an advocate for a third-party simply because of an email that I received today, and I think most of you all received today, which is now including me in the ethics complaint for my 'failure to act quickly,' though I took action as soon as I knew about things," Town Manager Victor Lay told the Commission. "I think it would resolve those issues if you did invite a third party to look at it."

"Three of you would have to choose who that was [to conduct the independent review,] because they included our [Town] attorney in the ethics complaint and so the reference for the [independent] attorney shouldn't come from he or I, nor Commissioners Cook-Mucci or Garamone," Lay continued. "So the three of you all will have to choose an outside attorney to come in and review everything."

NOV. 3 BOC MEETING

The Nov. 3 BOC meeting’s public comments section occurred first and included numerous speakers and remarks supporting Parker and speaking highly of Cook-Mucci and Garramone.

Some speakers spoke out against the news reporting on the investigation, calling for no punishment against those who violated the town’s ethics policy, while other citizens asked for more transparency and an independent ethics investigation.

The public comments section also included comments about agenda items not related to the ethics review.

VICE MAYOR COOK-MUCCI

Cook-Mucci addressed the incident and ethics review in the Oct. 24 meeting and elaborated on her thoughts in a Nov. 2 social media post, saying that she initially thought the ticket was a warning, something that she reiterated in the Nov. 3 meeting.

“When I was pulled over I did not say I was a commissioner or mention Chief Parker, I simply took the citation. I certainly never asked Chief Parker to do anything with the citation. When the concerns first came out about the citations I voiced to Victor and Charles (the town attorney) that we needed to have an independent investigation; in order for the town to trust the findings of any investigation I think it's imperative the investigation be done independently,” Cook-Mucci said in part in that post.

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Nolensville Vice Mayor Wendy Cook-Mucci speaks during the Nov. 3, 2022, Nolensville Board of Commissioners meeting, addressing her role as one of the subjects of an ethics investigation.

“I do want to issue a public apology for not following up on the citation and for receiving any special treatment in my role as a commissioner,” She continued.

“I also want to say here what I told both news outlets that interviewed me about the ethics violation. I told them that if you walked the streets of this town and asked every citizen what they thought about Chief Parker you would hear nothing but good. In fact, you would hear story after story about ways the Chief has cared for, protected, and made our town a better place. The citizens would say we are incredibly lucky to have Chief Parker. His 44-year career speaks volumes about the man we know he is.”

COMMISSIONER GARRAMONE

Garramone addressed the ethics report directly, at points, shedding tears along with Cook-Mucci.

“Was it wrong for me to accept the voiding of the ticket? Yes. Did I try to make it right by paying it and going to driving school? Yes. Do I accept and support the findings in the ethics investigation and censure if that's what the board decides? Yes. And do I accept and support if the board wants to conduct another third-party investigation? Yes.” Garramone said. 

“I am disappointed that some have decided to use this during the election, when the initial requests for the information came in March of 2021 and August of 2021,” Garramone continued. “If they were really worried about public welfare, as they've stated, why not address the issue a year ago, or a year-and-a-half ago when the information was requested?

“It has never been my intention to receive special treatment in my role as Commissioner,” Garramone said. “I have always viewed this role as a community service position, and I've tried to serve my neighbors in our community to the best of my ability. I have learned so much over the last two years about how I operate in this role, and I hope that I'll be able to continue to serve the citizens of Nolensville in some way.”

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Nolensville Commissioner Lisa Garramone speaks through tears during the Nov. 3, 2022, Nolensville Board of Commissioners meeting, addressing her role as one of the subjects of an ethics investigation.

MAYOR ADAMS

“I'm just really disappointed that Nolensville is going through this,” Nolensville Mayor Derek Adams said during Thursday's meeting, echoing statements from citizens made earlier in the meeting.

“The individual said it earlier very well,” Adams said. “We don't have a police problem. We have a politics problem. This election has gotten so intense that videos FOIA’d in 2021 are now trying to ruin the reputation of Commissioner Garramone for political purposes. I know Lisa, she's a great person. I definitely feel for her and her family. Her reputation is being drug through the mud.”

Adams recalled the statements of another citizen when speaking of Parker, calling him, “probably the most respected person in all of Nolensville.”

COMMISSIONER GALLIK

Gallik and Miller both condemned the behavior that was determined unethical, advocating for transparency and a strengthening of public trust in the town's government going forward. 

“I believe that the question before us tonight is not to place blame on the past, but to answer for the public how we're going to ensure that something like this would not happen again," Gallik said, citing an ignorance from the BOC about all of the aspects of the town's newly-adopted electronic ticketing system, a topic that was then discussed with Lay in the meeting.

“I think that it is the right time to make sure that we're putting that information out there because we have had a little bit of a breach of public trust,” Gallik said “And so it's our responsibility to make sure that we reestablish that public trust and you do that through transparency.

“Furthermore, I do think that we should each share that we all agree that as elected officials, the expectation is always to be held to the same standard or higher standard than as a private citizen, and I believe that each of us understands that.”

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Nolensville Commissioner Halie Gallik speaks during the Nov. 3, 2022, Nolensville Board of Commissioners meeting.

COMMISSIONER MILLER

Miller said that he has obtained a $15,000 quote to have an outside law firm conduct an independent investigation, which he expected would grow in cost.

“Proceeding further with the investigation gives me some pause,” Miller said, stopping short of supporting the hiring of an outside law firm, saying that he believes that the town’s ethics investigation was “thorough and impartial,” as the review concluded that both illegal and unethical actions had in fact taken place.

“I respect the public's right to seek and obtain information. I realize that citizens are personally upset and they have the right to be. We signed up for the seat, we took oaths -- this is not fun,” Miller said, adding that he had “no prior knowledge of wrongdoing by any of the commissioners.”

“Censuring is defined as expressing severe disapproval in a formal statement, so right now I'm making a formal statement,” Miller continued. “I'm telling my fellow Commissioners not to accept the waived ticket again. And I feel that was wrong.”

Miller said that in regards to allegations that Garramone may have been intoxicated when she approached the 2020 traffic crash, there was “no proof,” something that would essentially be impossible to prove two years later.

“Attorneys have already completed interviews with officers, all the videos are available in their entirety,” Miller said. “I'm struggling to see what more can be gained by dragging this up more, and again, carrying this investigation forward is not, in my opinion, it's not an investigation into commissioners, it's into our policing.

“Outside of the legal ramifications, the court of public opinion has spoken,” Miller said. “Nolensville loves its police chief, and so do I.”

NPD AND TOWN ADMINISTRATION

NPD Chief Roddy Parker attended Thursday's BOC meeting as he normally does, taking responsibility for his actions and accepting the findings of the town's ethics review.

“I appreciate you giving me an opportunity to speak here tonight,” Parker said. “First of all, I will make it very clear that neither commissioners having to deal with the situation have asked for any special treatment in any shape or form -- We've never had any discussions about that, so we'll make it very clear, what happened was my decision.”

Parker said that his reasoning for voiding the tickets was due to the “very contentious” government change and election in 2020 which he said resulted in town employees “being drug into this” and becoming part of the, at times, heated political discussions and debates among citizens.

“I was merely trying to avoid a contentious start with a board, and I don't want that to be misinterpreted that I thought that there would be, I just wanted to try to avoid that if possible; let’s just have this just be a smooth transition. There was no ill intent. I did not receive anything from the voiding of the ticket, nor would I have accepted anything,” Parker said, apologizing directly to the BOC, to Lay and to his fellow Town of Nolensville staff members.

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Nolensville Police Chief Roddy Park speaks during the Nov. 3, 2022, Nolensville Board of Commissioners meeting, apologizing for his actions in 2020 that led to an ethics investigation

“You've heard no reasons -- right, wrong or indifferent -- I thought I was making the best choice at the time,” Parker told the crowd. “I apologize for bringing any black eye on the town, it was never my intent.

“I've spent my whole five years here trying to lift up this town in any manner that I could, so it's very regretful to me that I have to stand up here and apologize for doing something like this, so I hope you'll accept my apologies, and I would coment further, but I'm not going to comment in front of these cameras because they did quite a hatchet job on me earlier this week. I'm not playing their game, so if anybody's got any questions, you have my phone number, you have my email address and stuff at the office anytime,” Parker said.

The crowd applauded during Parker's comments, some rising to their feet, others embracing him and thanking him as he walked from the podium to the back of the commission chambers.

Ultimately, the commission and the town administration expressed their support for Parker, and as the commission has no authority to reprimand him, an authority and responsibility solely of the Town Administrator, they deferred to Lay.

“I had a conversation with Chief Parker about why it's inappropriate to ‘fix’ tickets,” Lay said, adding that he first became aware of the tickets in mid-October 2021. 

“Now, it's important to know that both of the incidents with Commissioner Cook-Mucci as well as Commissioner Garramone occurred before I ever became town manager, and so, quite frankly, I'm not very inclined on issuing severe discipline to an employee for something that happened when I wasn't even here, and it wasn't providing the leadership to guide them to begin with. Because I can assure you, if I had known about it, if I had been here and knowing that it was occurring, it would have been dealt with then.

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Nolensville Town Manager Victor Lay speaks during the Nov. 3, 2022, Nolensville Board of Commissioners meeting.

“It is not my inclination to provide additional discipline to Chief Parker,” Lay continued. “I think he's got an incredible 40-plus-year career and a number of great years here with the town, and I am satisfied with his work.

“We have changed the process, so it's impossible for anything to be ‘fixed’, without, in this case, the judge knowing about it.”

The Commission eventually decided against censuring Garramone and Cook-Mucci and against hiring an outside law firm to conduct an independent ethics review, instead, voting unanimously (with Garramone and Cook-Mucci abstaining,) to refer the town's completed ethics review to the 12st Judicial District Attorney for a legal review.

“We have authority to try to regain public trust, to put out to the public how we know this will not happen again, and how each of us sitting up here knows that that's not acceptable, but what we can't do is pass judgment, or try to enforce a law that is outside of our authority,” Gallik said.

"In pushing that onto the DA, that would basically let the legal side look at it again and see if the conclusions that the ethics officer have reached are correct," Lay told The News (formerly known as the Williamson Home Page.) "If indeed there are other criminal things that he overlooked, then the DA would point those things out and ultimately make a decision on if it is something that should be pursued or not."

Lay told The News that this was an example of changes occurring in the town to continue to cultivate more transparent and professional operations.

"It is an evolution of growing a town that had a little bit of things to contend with to now a lot of things that we have to contend with, and we just want to make sure that everything is transparent," Lay said. "We've done that with our finances, we're producing a book that tries to make every department as transparent with what they do and accomplish as possible."

It's unclear at this time when the DA's office will conduct this legal review, and how the results of that review could impact the town, the BOC or Parker and NPD, especially as the statue of limitations for prosecuting the crime of violating the state's ticket fixing statute has already passed.

SECOND COMPLAINT

The commission also discussed a second ethics complaint against Lay and Gallik, accusing them of a conflict of interest as Lay serves on the board of directors of Public Entity Partners, the town's insurance company, while Gallik is an employee of that company.

Lay cited his previous transparency with the town and commission about his serving on the insurance company's board, and said that he has no authority over staff or hiring in that role.

Gallik addressed an allegation in the ethics complaint that she didn't inform the BOC about a recent position change she took at Public Entity Partners, but said that she did disclose that to the town attorney.

“I have never been involved, nor will I be involved in the town's decision of where we place our insurance. In fact, even our purchasing policy, I recused myself for a perceived conflict of interest and did not discuss the purchasing policy or vote on the purchasing policy,” Gallik said.

The BOC expressed their confidence in the town attorney's ability and work at addressing potential conflicts of interest, but ultimately unanimously voted (with Gallik abstaining) not to take any action on the complaint.