Davidson election committee chairman says he was fired from the law agency

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Commissioner Jim DeLanis discusses the referendum to amend the charter based on the 4GoodGovernment petition during an electoral commission meeting in the Howard Office Building in Nashville, Tennessee, Friday, September 25, 2020. The proposed December referendum, which will support the 34% Resetting of Nashville would increase property taxes and curb the city's ability to raise future rates.

Jim DeLanis, chairman of the Davidson County’s electoral commission, told The Tennessean on Tuesday that he was fired from his private job last week after 40 years of employment.

The reason, he said, is because he voted as chairman of the commission to appeal a judge’s decision invalidating the controversial referendum against the tax hike.

DeLanis, a former attorney at law firm Baker Donelson, said the company made the decision after executives received “threats and pressure” from two “significant” clients.

Due to possible ethical violations, DeLanis said he is unable to reveal the identity of the clients, but they asked him not to appeal a judge’s decision to reject the referendum.

In a statement, Baker Donelson denied DeLanis’ characterization of his departure. Instead, the company called it his “retirement”.

“We are grateful to Jim for his many years of service and wish him all the best for his retirement,” the statement said. “We disagree with his characterization of the circumstances of his departure, but we will not have a public debate about it.”

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The referendum initiatives, led by local attorney Jim Roberts and petition group 4 Good Government, aim to limit the Metro government’s power over property tax increases and other powers. After a judge overturned the measures and declared them defective and unconstitutional, the commission voted 3-2 on June 25 to challenge this decision in a higher court.

Davidson County election chairman Jim DeLanis

Prior to the vote, DeLanis said he received a call on June 24 from John Hicks, the law firm’s general counsel. He said Hicks asked him “not to vote on the issue”. DeLanis said he was also told to meet with senior executives on the referendum he was not comfortable with.

“When the big boss calls you and tells you to do something, it’s more than a request,” he said. “When I didn’t answer, I was fired.”

On the day of the vote, DeLanis said he had received an email from his company offering two options: either to resign from the company with a payment of $ 20,000 in fees for his remaining work, or to resign from the electoral committee and up to stay with the company at the end of the year.

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“I wrote back and said that I wasn’t interested in any of them and that they would have to do that if they felt they had to quit me,” he said.

The last day of DeLanis was July 2nd. His information was removed from the law firm’s website on Tuesday afternoon.

Going forward, DeLanis said he was not aiming to retire. He said he did not regret his vote on the referendum

“I firmly believe that decisions about our elections must be made openly and publicly, not secretly in back rooms,” he said. “They have to be made on the basis of reason and argument, not threats and twisting of the arm.”