PHOTO: (From left to right) Alderman Ben Dilks, Alderman Graham Shepard, Mayor Corey Napier and Alderman Brian Stover / Photo by Alexander Willis
BY ALEXANDER WILLIS
A Thompson’s Station Alderman claims Mayor Corey Napier lied and omitted significant employment information on financial disclosure forms filed with the Tennessee Bureau of Ethics and Campaign Finance.
Alderman Ben Dilks disclosed his official complaint to the TBECF during the Sept. 11 meeting of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen and Napier said any mistakes were unintentional and called any omissions “a complete oversight.”
“I did submit a complaint,” Dilks said near the end of the Tuesday night BOMA meeting.
“It looks to me that on at least two occasions, the mayor submitted false information on his interest disclosure forms and on a third occasion failed to update his disclosure forms.”
Dilks said Napier had recused himself from voting on a particular resolution during a meeting of the board in August of 2016, citing a conflict of interest with his employer at the time, Corporate Artworks. The resolution was to approve work by Barge Waggoner Sumner & Cannon for a re-design of Critz Lane. Napier said the conflict of interest was that his employer at the time sold artwork to Barge Waggoner Sumner & Cannon.
In August 2018, Napier voted on a resolution that included work with Barge Waggoner Sumner & Cannon, now called Barge Solutions. Dilks asked Napier why there was no longer a conflict of interest with Barge Solutions and Napier replied he was no longer employed by Corporate Artworks.
Following the August 2018 meeting, Dilks discovered that Napier’s most recent filings with the TBCEF still listed Corporate Artworks as his employer. After being notified of this, Napier emailed town staff on Aug. 23 that prior information on his financial disclosure forms was dated and that he had amended it to include his up-to-date employment information.
Napier’s email to staff said he ended his employment with Corporate Artworks on Nov. 13, 2017, and that he began employment with a new company, Manduu America LLC, on Mar. 1, 2018.
Dilks told the BOMA his research of Napier’s TBCEF filings uncovered the mayor had listed Corporate Artworks as his employer twice following the date of Nov. 13, 2017 – once on Dec. 14, 2017, and again on Jan. 24, 2018.
When asked why he had still listed Corporate Artworks as his employer after Nov. 13, 2017, Napier said that even though his employment with the company had technically ended, he was still receiving his final payments, and was still wrapping up “some loose-ends” with the company.
“The reason for even stating it on the ethics [filings] is because it was still tangentially a relationship, albeit one that had wound down,” Napier said. “I just thought it was the more conservative thing to do. I could have taken it off my ethics disclosure, but I thought that since we were in the wind-down period, that I better go ahead and list it.”
Dilks also claimed that Napier had failed to list Manduu America LLC as his employer in a timely manner because the mayor had been employed by the new firm since March 1, 2018, but did not file with the TBCEF until August.
Napier called that omission “a complete oversight.”
And lastly, Dilks included in his complaint that the owner of Manduu America LLC, Jason Ritzen, is the owner of a major commercial real estate development and management company, the Ritzen Group, and that that could potentially create new and undisclosed conflicts of interest. Ritzen also is the joint founder of Circa Grill in Thompson’s Station along with Napier.
Napier disputed any potential conflict because of his job with Manduu America LLC, but said if a future conflict arose, he would disclose it immediately.
“Jason has no other interests in Thompson’s Station, and never has, outside of the restaurant,” the mayor said.
“His development company does not do business in Thompson’s Station – in the past or in the future. Obviously if there was, I would fully disclose that. So no, I don’t think it’s a conflict of interest.”
The Tennessee Ethics Commission will review the allegations and if they are deemed to have merit the case would be referred to the state attorney general for further investigation. If the claims do not meet the commission’s requirements, the case would be dismissed.
The next meeting of the Thompson’s Station Board of Mayor and Alderman will be on October 9 at the Thompson’s Station Community Center at 1555 Thompson’s Station Road West, Thompson’s Station, TN 37179.