Editor's note: This story was first filed July 9 and updated on July 10.
Murfreesboro insurance agent Kelsey Ketron appeared before a state agency Wednesday to contest the state’s attempt to revoke her license, but the case was continued to an undetermined date because her lawyer asked for more time to represent her.
Kelsey Ketron appeared at an administrative hearing at the Tennessee Insurance Division at the Department of Commerce & Insurance. She was represented at the hearing by James G. Thomas and Aubrey B. Harwell Jr. of Neal & Harwell PLC of Nashville.
Kelsey Ketron’s license is expired, and the Tennessee Insurance Division on May 29 issued a cease and desist order to prevent her from selling insurance, the division said. The hearing was part of the process to stop her from ever reactivating her license.
Aubrey Harwell told Administrative Law Judge Phillip Hilliard that her lead lawyer is Trey Harwell, who had a schedule conflict in his role of serving on the board of the Nashville Airport Authority, which had a function he was attending. Aubrey Harwell said he had only spoken to Kelsey Ketron for the first time on Tuesday afternoon, and for a short period of time. So, the lawyer asked for a continuance.
The division’s assistant general counsel, Vishan Ramcharan, objected, saying the state gave adequate notice of the hearing, giving Kelsey Ketron ample time to find a lawyer. He said that the state had spent considerable time preparing for the hearing and that several witnesses had traveled from great distances to attend.
It was not immediately clear how long Trey Harwell had served as lead lawyer.
Those witnesses who were present included homeowner Susan Calvin, the plaintiff in a lawsuit against the agency where Kelsey Ketron works, Universal International Insurance Agency Inc., owned by her father, Rutherford County Mayor Bill Ketron. Calvin took time off work to attend and drive from Shelbyville, Ramcharan said.
Ramcharan said he only learned about the defendant’s motion to continue on Tuesday afternoon.
Aubrey Harwell said that Trey Harwell, his son, “has a better grip of this than I do.” He also said there were numerous allegations and he was not prepared.
“A fair trial would suggest we have time to adequately prepare and get ready,” Aubrey Harwell said, adding there are two sides to a story.
Hilliard said he believed Kelsey Ketron, in delaying her decision to find a lawyer, “didn’t understand the gravity of this situation” and granted the motion to continue the case. He suggested his son talk to the state later to set a new date.
Ramcharan said a date should be set immediately to benefit the witnesses and Calvin, whom he called a victim. He suggested a date of Sept. 20. He also suggested that Kelsey Ketron should have to pay some form of compensation for witnesses’ travel expenses.
Aubrey Harwell asked for 90 days. The administrative judge told both parties to work out the details and that if they could not reach agreement, he would get involved.
Calvin said, after the hearing, that she was disappointed in the continuance.
After the hearing, Aubrey Harwell did not allow Kelsey Ketron to answer media questions.
“This case will be tried out in the tribunal,” he said, “but there’s a court of public opinion, and her counsel deserves, and she deserves, for us to be prepared for the court of public opinion.”
(The original story continues below.)
A lawsuit is pending against an insurance agency owned by Rutherford County Mayor Bill Ketron for over a half-million dollars, court and state records show, while his daughter, Kelsey Ketron, who worked there, has been hit with a state penalty and faces police charges.
Bill Ketron is the owner of Universal International Insurance Agency Inc., located at 805 S. Church St., according to the Secretary of State’s office.
Bill Ketron did not return phone calls seeking comment. The Universal office was closed Monday afternoon when the Murfreesboro Post sought a comment. Kelsey Ketron did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
A civil lawsuit is pending in Rutherford County Circuit Court against Universal International Insurance Agency Inc. by Bedford County residents Susan and Charles Daniel Calvin, court records show. The couple claims in the lawsuit that they hired the insurance agency to obtain homeowners insurance and that they paid the agency but they were not covered when their house was damaged.
The Calvins filed a fraud complaint in June 2018 with the Murfreesboro Police Department, the department’s records show.
The MPD issued this statement: “This is an on-going investigation and we can’t comment at this time,” said Murfreesboro Detective Chris Pitts. “While we understand the victims’ frustration being a year has passed since they filed the report, the case is actively being investigated by multiple agencies and criminal charges will follow.”
Heather Parker, the plaintiffs’ lawyer, said no trial date has been set. She said she is trying to subpoena records.
The homeowners claim that Universal committed a breach of contract. They say they could not repair their home in a timely manner; thus, their home suffered more damage. They estimated the damage at $127,230.45. They also claim damages from the premium in the amount of $1,608.12.
The plaintiffs say they should receive punitive damages “based upon Defendant’s breach because Defendant fraudulently, intentionally, or recklessly and willfully, disregarded its obligations under the parties’ agreement.” The plaintiffs ask for judgment of $500,000, plus costs. They also demand a jury trial.
Cease and desist
Kelsey Ketron was hit with a cease and desist order by the Tennessee Insurance Division on May 29, according to the division’s official order. She was a licensee from Feb. 16, 2012 through Aug. 31, 2016. Susan Calvin filed the complaint.
Kelsey Ketron was the agent and primary point of contact for the Calvins, the Tennessee Insurance Division said. Her license expired on Aug. 31, 2016, the division said.
Kelsey Ketron also was elected last year as a member of the Tennessee Republican Party State Executive Committee.
A license revocation hearing for her license will be held on Wednesday at 10 a.m. in Room 1-B on the first floor of the Davy Crockett Tower in Nashville, according to the division.
The Calvins say they hired Universal to provide for a homeowners insurance policy on their home. They claim in the lawsuit that the agency did not do so.
Around Sept. 8, 2017, Universal asked Wells Fargo, which held the escrow account, to send it a check to cover the premium, the lawsuit says. The bank sent the check, addressed to AUI, for $1,608.12, the amount of the premium.
The Tennessee Insurance Division says Kelsey Ketron “intentionally misled Wells Fargo, stating that the policy the bank had on file was no longer accurate” and provided a new policy number. She gave the amount for a check to be issued to AUI and the check needed to be mailed to Universal.
The lawsuit says, “on or about September 15, 2017, Defendant Universal cashed the check from Wells Fargo. Defendant Universal failed to obtain the homeowners’ insurance policy that Plaintiff had paid Defendant to obtain. In or about January of 2018, Plaintiffs attempted to make a claim” because their homes’ pipes had frozen.
AUI told the homeowners there was no policy received from Universal.
The Tennessee Insurance Division says that while Kelsey Ketron “initially appeared to begin the claims process and even sent workers to Calvin’s home to conduct an inspection. However, the Respondent (Kelsey Ketron) soon stopped providing updates on the claim and then ceased communications with Calvin altogether.”
Wells Fargo referred the homeowners to AUI, which said they had no record of a policy and the policy number they had received from Kelsey Ketron “was not the correct format for any policy issued by Appalachian.”
The Tennessee Insurance Division says that on July 23, 2018, Kelsey Ketron received and signed for a copy of an inquisitorial order in the case and that on the same day, she signed and mailed a Universal check of $1,608.12 to Wells Fargo with a loan number for Susan Calvin. The division says that on June 30, 2018, Wells Fargo applied the check to Calvin’s escrow account, which still had a negative balance because of a charge of $1,891 for “forced place insurance,” which the division said was “a direct result of the false statements the Respondent made to Wells Fargo on September 8, 2017.”
The state’s order to cease and desist order says Kelsey Ketron has “falsely held herself out to be a licensed insurance agent and falsely negotiated insurance in Tennessee without being licensed to do so” and “intentionally misappropriated a consumer’s homeowners insurance premium check.”