At-Large Councilman Charlie Tygard has filed a formal complaint against Canadian Jim Balsillie's local representative, Bo Roberts, for possibly lobbying without being registered.
Tygard, a huge fan of the Nashville Predators and no fan of Balsillie, wants Roberts investigated for lobbying the mayor, council members and others in government regarding a proposal he was going to submit on Balsillie's behalf last Friday. That proposal has caused quite a distraction with the local investor group's deal on the table for the team and may end up gumming up the works.
Tygard said if Roberts, managing partner of communications firm NetCom, should have been registered if he was representing Balsillie, chairman of Research In Motion, and his entity created for the purpose of trying to buy the team. Clearly, Tygard also is peeved at the timing of Balsillie's proposal.
"His client doesn't seem to want to follow the rules regarding the process down here," Tygard said, adding that everyone else has followed the rules. "I have no use for Jim Balsillie."
Roberts, who became a senior advisor to Karl Dean's mayoral campaign after serving as chairman for former Vice Mayor Howard Gentry's losing mayoral bid, said he started working with Balsillie several weeks ago. He said mainly he was monitoring what was happening with the current deal and the discussions between the Mayor Dean and the local group.
"I haven't talked to any council members," Roberts said. "Basically, I hadn't considered it lobbying. If that's the interpretation, then I'll certainly rectify it." He said will do that this afternoon or tomorrow.
There has been talk that Roberts had discussed the proposal with the mayor and/or his staff, which would also be considered lobbying. Roberts said he had only talked to Kevin Lavender, head of the Metro Sports Authority, about Balsillie's proposal and was asked to put it in writing, which was done on Friday.
Such lobbying complaints are rare. "Last time I had one was 2003," said Metro Council Clerk Marilyn Swing. She said before that, there were several in 1995 regarding building a landfill.
Swing will investigate and Roberts will have an opportunity to respond. If she determines that Roberts was lobbying without being registered, he could receive anything from warning letter and a requirement to register to being taken to court. The court could fine him up to $500 and the clerk could ban him from lobbying for up to two years.
If there is a punishment, though, it likely will be light. In 2003, Metro decided not to pursue that matter in court. And in 1995, first time offenders were given a letter of warning, Swing said.