The Rutherford County Ethics Committee dismissed a complaint against Planning Commissioner Will Jordan after finding no evidence of unethical behavior involving his vote on a rezoning matter.
Jordan, a Leanna area farmer and longtime member of the Rutherford County Commission and planning commission, told Ethics Committee members he would resign from both governing bodies if they found he had done anything unethical.
"I'll do whatever the ethical thing is. If there's any doubt whatsoever that I have done anything unethical, tell me what to do and we'll clean it up right now," Jordan said.
Three Rockvale area residents filed a complaint April 12 that Jordan had a conflict of interest as a board member of Wilson Bank & Trust when he voted this March in favor of a rezoning for Burke Skelton, who plans to develop a site at 10596 Rockvale Road for his business, Outdoors Unlimited. The vote was made at the planning commission level.
The complaint says Skelton obtained a $120,000 loan from Wilson Bank & Trust in January, 10 months before applying for the rezoning.
"We believe that any reasonable person would question the connection of Mr. Will Jordan to the Wilson Bank & Trust and see it as a conflict of interest, and potentially a violation of Mr. Jordan's fiduciary duties," states the letter signed by Mark Schklar, Leslie Selfe and Angela Langdon. None of the three plaintiffs attended the Ethics Committee hearing last Thursday night.
After hearing from Jordan, who said he did not know about the loan when he voted on the matter in the planning commission, the committee voted unanimously to clear him of any wrongdoing.
"There's no way someone can be responsible for something of which they had no knowledge," Ethics Committee Chairman Teb Batey said.
To avoid the appearance of impropriety, Jordan said he excused himself from a County Commission meeting when the matter was heard at that level. Jordan does not represent the Rockvale area.
Jordan told members that Wilson Bank & Trust has 105,000 customers and $1.6 billion loans and pointed out the board of directors doesn't look at any loans under $3 million.
"I don't even have the opportunity or ability to see this loan. There are privacy laws in effect," Jordan said.
Calling the matter extremely "frustrating," Jordan said his son told him comments were made on Facebook about the situation.
"I looked and they were saying derogatory things about my father (Ed Jordan Jr.). He's been dead five years. If you want to talk about ethics, you can talk about me, but don't talk about my daddy. He's out of your league, I don't care who you are," said Jordan, who turned emotional as he spoke about his late father, a longtime Rutherford County School Board member.
Jordan said he had never met Skelton before the application was filed and had no conversations about it other than normal calls by people in favor of it or opposed to it. Jordan noted if he had received a call from a Wilson Bank representative asking him to "take care of it," he would have resigned from the board immediately.
Committee members said they didn't see any ethical violation by Jordan and defended his character.
County Commissioner Rhonda Allen, who serves on the committee, said she had served with Jordan for a decade on the planning commission as well as on the county commission. "He's never tried to influence a vote of mine, ever," she said.
Committee member Robert Peay, also a county commissioner, pointed out all other members of the planning commission voted in favor of the Rockvale Road rezoning for Skelton.
"My opinion is you haven't broken any ethics rules," Peay said.
If Jordan had benefited from an arrangement or told Skelton he would get the rezoning if he did business with Wilson Bank & Trust, or if the loan had been for $10 million, it could be a conflict of interest, Batey said.
"If there had been knowledge, it would have violated one of our rules," Batey said.
Schklar could not be reached for comment on the outcome.
During their discussion, committee members raised concerns about people filing complaints and then failing to show up to answer questions or allow the target of their complaint to face them.