Group considers filing complaint over fairgrounds proposal - WSMV News 4

Group considers filing complaint over fairgrounds proposal

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(WSMV file photo) (WSMV file photo)
NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) -

Rick Williams, a spokesman for the group Save Our Fairgrounds, said the group is considering filing an ethics complaint against the chairman of the Metro Nashville Fair Board, Ned Horton.

Horton voted on a proposal that could bring more soccer to the Fairgrounds, although he, until recently, was the president of an association promoting soccer in Nashville.

Some supporters of the Nashville fairgrounds say the property is slowly being dismantled. They worry the flea market and other activities will be squeezed out by a soccer stadium and public playing fields.

Last month, Horton supported soccer coming to the fairgrounds.

"I don't think it's the end of the fairgrounds at all. I think it's a new era - a new, exciting era," Horton told News 4 on Oct. 5.

State documents show that Horton was the president of a youth soccer association, Nashville Soccer United, until last year.

"I do think there's a conflict of interest," said fairgrounds supporter Shane Smiley.

Smiley is an outspoken supporter of keeping the Fairgrounds intact.

He criticized Horton for voting for fairgrounds soccer without mentioning he started an association that potentially stands to benefit.

"And he has never once disclosed that he had anything to do with youth soccer, was part of any other organization, and he certainly hasn't recused himself from any votes,” Smiley said.

Nashville Soccer United, according to its website, is a nonprofit started by parents to create neighborhood soccer clubs. Horton appeared with a group of young soccer players in a 2010 photo on an archived version of the website.

Horton told News 4 he doesn't see any conflict of interest or the need recuse himself. He said he hasn't been involved with the organization in at least three years.

News 4 found documents in the secretary of state's office that indicate the club listed Horton as its registered agent as late as April of 2017.

Horton is listed as president of the club on documents submitted to the IRS dated May of 2016.

Youth soccer could, in theory, get a big boost if the fairgrounds is redeveloped for soccer fields and a professional stadium.

Smiley said he believes the fair board chairman should be listening to all the citizens who don't want the fairgrounds’ history sacrificed for soccer.

"I think that it's very problematic and it’s heartbreaking to see that we have people who are supposed to be helping lead the way that are going against the wishes of what the voters said,” Smiley said.

In 2011, former Mayor Karl Dean announced his plan to  demolish and redevelop the fairgrounds.  Citizens rallied and passed a referendum to protect the then-current uses at the site.

"And yes, as chairman, he should be the one fighting for that," Smiley said.

Smiley isn't the only one concerned about a perceived conflict of interest; so is Metro Councilman Steve Glover.

“There's conflicts in my opinion. I don't think we're being honest with the taxpayers of Nashville and I certainly don't think we're honoring what they voted on when they changed our charter and the referendum that we did on the fairgrounds," Glover said.

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