Ketron truck

State auditors have questioned campaign finance reporting surrounding Rutherford County Mayor Bill Ketron’s pickup, shown here parked outside the Courthouse last Tuesday. JASON M. REYNOLDS

State election campaign finance auditors are questioning the financing and uses of Rutherford County Mayor Bill Ketron’s pickup truck.

An audit of Ketron’s old state senate campaign finance account raised questions about the truck. The audit was conducted by the state Bureau of Ethics and Campaign Finance.

“Mayor Ketron disclosures overstated expenses associated with Mayor Ketron’s Senate Campaign’s purchased vehicle due the (sic) use of the vehicle in Mayor Ketron’s Mayoral Campaign,” the audit says. “The overstatement appears to make the Mayor Ketron’s Senate Campaign non-compliant with T.C.A. 2-10-105(a) and 2-10-107 either for unreported in-kind contributions to the mayoral race or for unreceived payments from the mayoral campaign that would be unreported expense adjustments. In addition, the campaign vehicle expenses were overstated by $2,269.16 in 2018 for reimbursements paid to then Senator Ketron by the State of Tennessee.”

The Murfreesboro Post asked Ketron’s lawyer, Trey Harwell, for a statement about the truck. Earlier in December, he had issued a statement about the senate, PAC and mayoral audits. Harwell declined to make an additional statement.

Campaign records show Ketron bought a Ford F-150 at the end of 2013, the audit said. The title is in the name of William Franklin Ketron, not his Senate campaign. Auditors say statements from the candidate and records show the truck was bought on an installment loan and payments made by the Senate campaign bank account from his Senate campaign contributions.

In Tennessee, most campaigns are not legal entities, and to purchase something like a vehicle, a candidate’s name is used for legal reasons, the audit said.

“However, regardless of the title, the vehicle was purchased with campaign funds and identified by Mayor Ketron as a campaign vehicle. As such it is a Mayor Ketron’s Senate Campaign asset,” the audit said.

The purchase was allowable, the audit said, but the uses are restricted to campaign uses for the Senate campaign or Senate office-holder activities by state law.

“Any other uses of the vehicle would be prohibited including personal use of the vehicle,” the audit said.

During the audit period, the Senate campaign truck was used for the mayoral campaign at least once in Ketron’s role as mayor, and two times to haul waste from Ketron’s property to the landfill, the audit said. During Ketron’s time as a senator, the state paid him a per diem for travel, which should have been transferred to his Senate campaign account and reported as a reduction of expenses.

“The result is Mayor Ketron effectively converted Mayor Ketron’s Senate Campaign money to funds available for his personal use through the state’s per diem payments process,” the audit said.

The audit said that appears to violate state law restricting the personal use of campaign funds.

Ketron allegedly failed to comply with campaign reporting statutes every time the truck was used for the mayoral campaign and the expenses were neither reimbursed nor reported to the senate campaign nor reported as an in-kind contribution to the mayoral campaign, which should have reported the expenses as well.

To use the senate campaign vehicle, the mayoral campaign would need to pay all the expenses and report them, or buy the truck from the Senate account, or have rented the use at fair market value, the audit said.

Ketron did not maintain gas receipts or a travel log for the truck’s use for senate business or for mayoral uses. Due to a lack of records, the audit can document expenses but cannot tell the purpose of each individual expense, the audit said.

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