Editor's note: The amount of campaign account money in question was incorrectly stated in an earlier version of this story. The amount has been corrected.
Rutherford County Mayor Bill Ketron’s three campaign finance accounts are being audited, a state election official confirmed, but the police investigation into his insurance company is delaying the process.
Bill Young, executive director of the state’s Bureau of Ethics and Campaign Finance, said his office is conducting the audits but learned only Tuesday about the three indictments that the Rutherford County Grand Jury handed down against Kelsey Ketron Randolph, the mayor’s daughter and former campaign treasurer.
The bureau is trying to gather documents, but many of the records his office needs are in law enforcement’s possession, he said.
“We’re trying to move as quickly as possible,” Young said.
Bill Ketron did not respond to a request for comment.
The indictments against Kelsey Ketron allege she illegally withdrew about $65,579 from her father’s campaign finance accounts and used the funds for the family business and her personal gain.
Counts 15-29 of Indictment Three allege that Kelsey Ketron used her position as treasurer to remove funds from her father’s three campaign accounts and also allegedly comingled the funds with the funds of the family’s Universal International Insurance Agency Inc.
The campaign finance accounts for Bill Ketron in question are Bill Ketron for State Senate, Quest Political Action Committee and Bill Ketron for County Mayor.
The Bureau of Ethics and Campaign Finance is the state agency tasked with investigating alleged campaign finance violations, Young said. It reports to the Tennessee Registry of Election Finance, an appointed board that has the authority to take action based on those reports.
The bureau is scheduled to give an update on its progress on Nov. 13 to the registry, Young said.
The Murfreesboro Post in September reported that the Tennessee Registry of Election Finance voted to audit Bill Ketron’s campaign accounts and Quest PAC.
The Tennessee Attorney General’s Office in July announced it was considering a lawsuit over alleged unpaid penalties for his campaign finance violations.
The Murfreesboro Post reported in November 2018 that Ketron and his Senate political action committee, Quest, failed to file campaign finance documents on time and were fined a combined $40,000, state documents show.
The Murfreesboro Post asked Young what the penalty could be if the alleged violations are not settled by the time Bill Ketron’s position is up for election. Tennessee Code Annotated 2-10-110 says a candidate who has not filed a required statement will be disqualified from running for office until the report is filed. Also, if a civil penalty is not paid within 30 days, “after the assessment becomes final, or by the qualifying deadline for election, whichever is earlier, the candidate owing such civil penalty shall be ineligible to qualify for election to any state or local public office until such penalty and costs are paid.”
In 2015, the Murfreesboro Post reported that Bill Ketron, then a state senator, allegedly used his campaign account to pay for trips and then was reimbursed by the state. The story, quoting NewsChannel 5, said Bill Ketron received more than $17,500 while traveling around the county over a six-year period. Ketron, who was battling cancer, said he paid back the money after it was brought to his attention.