Free food and drinks for Metro employees could come soon - WSMV News 4

Free food and drinks for Metro employees could come soon

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NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) -

There's no such thing as a free meal for members of the Metro Council. But soon, that could change. Ethics rules prevent the council from accepting even a cup of coffee from anyone who might do business with the city. Now, there's a move to loosen the rules. Some critics said it could be a big step backward.

Councilman-at-large Charlie Tygard is sponsoring an ordinance to allow council members to get free food and drinks. But critics said loosening the reins invites poor perception and possible outside influence.

Before Metro Council meetings, members used to be greeted with free meals from special interest groups.

But then, thanks to public pressure, the council passed rules to limit free stuff and completely eliminate free food and drinks for all Metro employees.

"It's an outright ban on any free food or beverage," said Metro council's attorney John Cooper. "Currently they cannot accept even a bottle of filtered water."

Now, councilman Tygard has proposed a new ordinance to allow some free food and drinks once again.

Cooper said the proposed ordinance would allow city employees to receive free food and drinks up to $25 worth from a single source per year.

"A $25 limit per year per source is quite low," said Cooper.

But former councilman Michael Craddock said any amount of free food is too much.

"If someone gives you a meal, they want something out of you, period. They want your time, your ear, influence or something," said Craddock.

Craddock fought past proposals to lift the limit on free food and drinks. But now, he is no longer a council member.

"We have left the council, and now they're trying to re-institute it so they can go and have free meals and glad hand with people. There are people out here who cannot afford to buy a loaf of bread and the Metro Council is talking about getting free meals. Shame," said Craddock.

Councilman Tygard is out of town, but he told Channel Four's Caroline Moses on the phone that his goal is to allow members to have a drink or even a sandwich at speaking events without worrying about ethics concerns. He said he does not endorse regular free meals from special interest groups.

The ordinance is set to be introduced to the council next Tuesday.

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