Metro police investigating fraudulent push poll call - WSMV Channel 4

Metro police investigating fraudulent push poll call in school board race

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NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) -

Sean Ryan is a local parent who has been following the Metro school board race fairly closely between District 8 candidates Mary Pierce and Becky Sharpe. He's even planted Pierce's campaign sign in his front yard.

But when he got a call claiming to be from the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce conducting a push poll on the race, he knew something wasn't right.

"Someone, whoever it was, put together this poll in an attempt to bias people in the election and to slant people's views about one of the candidates," Ryan said. "The caller ID came up Tennessee Chamber of Commerce."

The Tennessee Chamber believes up to 1,000 people in District 8 and District 2 may have received the push poll in their name, but chamber officials say they had no knowledge of a push poll until they began receiving complaints.

"We had a substantial number of people who were calling and complaining who were wondering why the chamber was calling their home and making policy statements," Jackson said.

Chamber officials said they serve as the voice of business and do not get involved with school board elections.

"We don't do push polling, never have. I don't suspect we ever will, so it was quite a shock when we heard what was going on," Jackson said.

They are now fighting back. Jackson said they filed a formal complaint with Metro police, who have now launched a fraud investigation to find the alleged imposters.

"This is a case where somebody hijacked our identity and they made policy statements using our name and our brand," Jackson said.

He said there is no way anyone in the chamber office could have made the calls because everyone had gone home before the first call was made.

People who have heard the call say it asks leading and biased questions and asks about the candidate's children.

"The questions seem to advocate for Becky Sharpe over Mary Pierce, from what I am told," Jackson said.

Sharpe said on the phone that other people have said the questions advocate more for Pierce. Both candidates deny having any involvement or knowledge.

"For it to get to this level of nastiness, whoever initiated this for them to do it to a school board and shift the focus off of what's important, that's unfortunate," Jackson said.

"It ought to be about the children," Ryan said. "This is not about children."

Both candidates issued statements Thursday afternoon.

Pierce wrote: "We have seen the news reports concerning the Tennessee Chamber's attempts to identify the source of the fraudulent calls made last month in the District 8 school board race. We hope justice is served. In the meantime, our campaign remains committed to knocking on doors, talking to voters and striving to improve education for students across the city."

Sharpe wrote: "I heard about the phone calls through the grapevine and was not involved in them in any way. I understand now the calls took place in several districts. No one in my campaign was involved or aware of who might be responsible."

Metro Police Spokesperson Don Aaron said it will be difficult to track who made the calls, but the fraud department is working with communications companies to track the origin. The responsible parties could face impersonation charges.

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