The legal battle over a 2020 anti-tax hike referendum effort is over.
The Tennessee Supreme Court on Thursday declined to hear the Davidson County Election Commission’s appeal challenging Metro’s handling of a petition-driven referendum effort to strike down the city’s 34% property tax increase.
Petition group 4 Good Government first attempted to trigger a referendum election in 2020, aiming to curb Metro government’s power to increase property taxes and change how Nashville handles public official recalls, sports team deals and more. A trial court judge struck down that effort.
The Davidson County Election Commission took the case to the Tennessee Court of Appealswhich ruled in March that the commission acted illegally when it decided to hold the anti-tax hike referendum in 2021.
The commission voted 3-2 in April to take the case to the state Supreme Court in hopes of answering the following:
Whether the court has the power to “undo an election” and then reschedule it.
Whether Metro’s pre-election legal challenge of the “form” of the referendum petition and its initiatives was valid.
What the Metro Charter’s language means regarding the requirement for a petition to set an election date.
The last question is now moot – voters approved an amendment to Nashville’s charter in May that lays out a new, more detailed process for altering the charter via referendum by petition.
As of Thursday, the lengthy legal battle related to both referendum attempts had cost Davidson County taxpayers upwards of $1.1 million.
Most of the money spent – $891,586.88 – went to outside counsel retained by the Election Commission for the most recent case.
As of April, Metro spent $14,219.50 on the most recent case, including $5,440 for outside counsel from former Metro Director of Law Bob Cooper, $4,800 for outside counsel from William Koch, and $3,899.50 for court reporters and court clerk fees.
The legal costs for the first referendum court battle cost the Election Commission $214,927, the Tennessee Lookout reported. Metro’s costs associated with outside counsel, court reporters, and clerk fees for that litigation totaled about $19,360.
Davidson County Election Commission Chairman Jim DeLanis could not be immediately reached for comment.
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