Today is Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Lebanon mayor race gets heated

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In less than two weeks Lebanon voters will cast their ballots in the U.S. Presidential and City of Lebanon races.

If you've tuned into any news outlet, it is evident the war between presidential nominees Hillary Clinton (D) and Donald Trump (R) has turned both personal - and ugly.

This week the Lebanon Mayoral race is getting heated, too.

Lebanon Mayor Philip Craighead, who was elected to the seat in 2008 and is seeking a third term, issued a letter Monday calling out Ward 4 City Council Member, and Mayoral challenger, Bernie Ash for statements made on his personal Facebook page.

In the post, Ash, who also serves as Wilson County Veteran Service Officer, asked friends whether or not they had received their property tax notices yet.

"I got my county notice last week, and the Tax notice for the City of Mt. Juliet went out two weeks ago, but no Lebanon Tax notice," Ash wrote. "Maybe they are waiting till after the Early Voting is over to deliver the bad news. Just so you know, your city taxes will go up about 17 percent. After the reappraisal, the Mayor and a majority of council voted to the tax rate the same, which created a tax increase."

Ash concluded, "Revenues are up and we have a surplus. I did not vote for a tax increase."

The post struck a chord with Craighead.

In a letter dated October 24, 2016, Craighead wrote directly to Ash:

"I have to say that I'm very disappointed in you for making a comment on Facebook that city employees and I would even think of delaying mailing of tax notices. Our Commissioner of Finance Robert Springer and staff which oversees this department would never allow such and neither would I. A simple phone call to Mr. Springer for the answers and reasons would have provided an explanation for the delay. You have defamed a very professional staff for potential votes at the expense of the City of Lebanon's reputation."

Craighead went on to say that that Ash left out "the full story and facts of the financial needs of the city for this year's budget."

"During these past budget work sessions, we were informed of the need to leave the tax rate at the present rate," he said, noting that the budget included funding for the new fire hall at Highway 109, new fire trucks, new police officers, employee pay adjustments, $1.8 million for street and sidewalk repairs and maintenance, extension of Legends Drive, additional staff in human resources, public works, police and fire, and more.

Craighead goes on in his letter to question Ash's ability to lead.

He alleges that in one budget meeting, Springer explained that without a property tax increase they would not be discussing a new fire hall.

"All present seemed to be on board with the proposed budget which left the tax rate at the 60.75 cents. If you object you can't just sit there quietly, you have to express an opinion and provide solutions. You did neither," wrote Craighead, later stating that Ash "voted in support of so many future expenditures during the budget process but you just didn't have the backbone to support your fellow councilmen, your employees, and the citizens by making sure the dollars would be there with a balanced budget."

The Wilson Post spoke with Craighead and Ash briefly after the letter was issued.

Craighead kept his comments to the point. "He questioned our integrity and that is not right. Especially if you are trying to be the one leading the city."

Ash called the response - sent in an email using the city's letterhead - "desperation politics."

"I just asked a simple question. The tax bills usually come out about the same time the county does. I didn't say anything about the staff - we have a competent staff," Ash said. "I could have called Robert Springer, but I thought it was a political thing. People have been asking me, and I still want to know where the tax bills are."

Ash and Craighead are not the only ones taking shots.

A third mayoral candidate Derek Dodson's mass mailing explained his decision for entering the race.

"I, Derek Dodson, am running for Mayor of Lebanon simply for this moment to remind and expose some of the high-lites (sic) of the well-documented 8 year span of corruption & nitwittery by bad actor Con Mon Craighead while in office," Dodson wrote. "I am the only citizen whom publicly battled & exposed the corruption of active developer Lebanon Mayor Philip Craighead/ MPC thru-out (sic) his term in office."

Dodson said those voting in support of Ash "already 'get it,' while those supporting Craighead perhaps are devoid of ethical standards.'"

In the final paragraph of Craighead's letter to Ash, he states that in the last few months he has received communications from fellow Councilors about Ash's residency.

It is alleged that Ash, who represents Ward 4 and owns a home in that district, has been living for the past several years in Ward 5, which is represented by Tick Bryan.

Ash told The Wilson Post on Monday night that none of the councilors have ever personally addressed him.

"I own one home. I pay the taxes, the mortgage and the insurance. My mail comes there. That is my home," he said. "That is all I need to say about that. I don't have another home."

Staff Writer Sabrina Garrett may be contacted at sgarrett@wilsonpost.com.

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Bernie Ash, candidate, City of Lebanon, Derek Dodson, election, Lebanon, Lebanon City Council, mayor, Philip Craighead, politics, vote
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