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No action taken against Burchett for alleged misuse of campaign funds

6:12 PM, Oct 23, 2012   |    comments
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Tuesday a state board that oversees election and campaign finances voted unanimously to drop an investigation into Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett.

The accusations of wrong-doing involved Burchett's ex-wife, Allison Beaver. Beaver handled some of Burchett's campaign finances in 2009 and 2010.

As the couple went through divorce, Beaver provided the Knoxville News Sentinel (KNS) with receipts showing where thousands of campaign dollars were transferred into personal bank accounts.  Beaver told the newspaper Buchett directed her to make the transactions.  KNS opinion columnist Pam Strickland filed a complaint with the state that requested an investigation into the campaign finance discrepancies.

Tuesday the State Registry of Election Finance met in Nashville to hear Burchett's side of the story.  While Burchett did not attend, he submitted a sworn affidavit and was represented in-person by attorney Stephen Zralek.  Burchett faced up to a $10,000 fine for each accounting discrepancy.

In the affidavit, Burchett stated his ex-wife had banking experience and he trusted her to handle all the campaign and personal finances.  Burchett said he found out about the misuse of campaign money through the articles published by the Knoxville News Sentinel.

When Burchett won the election in August 2010, his acceptance speech credited his now ex-wife with helping the campaign.

Now Burchett says the blame for any violation of campaign finance laws should be placed on his ex-wife.

"Obviously, I trusted someone I thought I would spend the rest of my life with. Obviously, it didn't work out that way," said Burchett on Tuesday afternoon. "I should have been paying better attention to what my wife was doing at the time. I was in the middle of a campaign. It's unfortunate."

The affidavit states Beaver funneled more than $15,000 from the campaign's account into personal bank accounts.  It also states that since Burchett was made aware of the discrepancies, he has hired a certified accountant to serve as campaign treasurer and review all available financial records.  Burchett says his wife transferred and used campaign funds for personal use.  The affidavit states financial records revealed in 2010 Burchett's ex-wife spent a total of more than $25,000 on clothes, spa visits, and payments on a condo Beaver owned before the two were married.

"I'm pleased to bring closure to this sad chapter in my life," said Burchett.

Burchett recently filed amended campaign finance disclosures to accurately reflect the use of funds.

"He expects everyone in his campaign to be transparent, to keep great records moving forward, and he wants to provide a complete and accurate snapshot of the campaign's finances," said Zralek.

Tuesday the six-member Registry voted unanimously to take no action against Burchett.  The board stated Burchett's accountant must balance the books to show exactly where the more than $15,000 ended up.

Zralek told the board the campaign has disclosed everything and it may never have a full picture of where the money went.

Burchett said he does not currently plan to sue his ex-wife for damages and legal fees, but he also did not rule out legal action in the future.

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