Nashville school shooting families accuse senator of using bill to get his way in records lawsuit

Apr 10, 2024, 2:00 PM

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Family members representing the six people killed in a Nashville school shooting last year have filed an ethics complaint against a Tennessee state senator, arguing he is being self-serving by both suing for the release of the shooter’s writings and filing legislation to prevent third parties like them from intervening in public records lawsuits.

Sen. Todd Gardenhire is one of several people who filed open records requests last year seeking access to journals and other materials that were collected by Metro Nashville Police during their investigation. Police have said they will release the documents, but not until their investigation is closed, which is expected to be in a few months.

When their records request was denied last year, the senator and several others sued to force the release of the records. They argue there is not an open investigation because the shooter is dead, killed by police, and no one else is being prosecuted. But the case has been complicated and delayed by a dispute over who can be a party to the lawsuit.

A group of Covenant parents, the Covenant School and the Covenant Presbyterian Church that shares its building all sought to intervene in the case and were eventually granted that right by the court. The school and the church are seeking to ensure that no details are made public that could jeopardize the security of the building. The parents do not want any of the documents released, arguing that they could further traumatize their children and inspire copycats.

A hearing in the records case is scheduled to begin on Tuesday.

After losing the battle over who could intervene in court, the Chattanooga Republican sponsored a bill this year that states “intervention by a non-governmental third party in a public records lawsuit is not permitted.”

The ethics complaint filed on Tuesday accuses Gardenhire of “using his position as a State Senator to pass legislation in order to eliminate opposing parties.” The complaint says Gardenhire should have disclosed his involvement in the Covenant records lawsuit but didn’t.

Speaking for the bill in the State and Local Government Committee on March 12, Gardenhire told his fellow lawmakers, “Third party intervenors take away the government’s control of its own records.” However, he did not mention the records lawsuit. On March 18, the bill passed the Senate without debate or opposition. It is scheduled to be taken up by the House of Representatives on Thursday.

Meanwhile, a victim’s rights group sent an email to House members on Wednesday urging them to oppose the legislation.

“Today, sadly, in an environment where criminals are given more rights than victims, this is just another blow to victims if this bill passes, taking away what little power they may have after a victimization to keep some semblance of dignity in the middle of a horrible nightmare that changes their life forever,” wrote Verna Wyatt, co-founder of Tennessee Voices for Victims.

Gardenhire declined to comment through a spokesperson.

United States News

Associated Press

Appeals court won’t halt upcoming Alabama execution

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — A federal appeals court on Tuesday declined to halt the upcoming execution of an Alabama man convicted in the beating deaths of an elderly couple during a 2004 robbery. The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals denied two separate requests for an execution stay for Jamie Ray Mills, 50. Mills is […]

34 minutes ago

Donald Trump speaks to the media as he arrives to court during his trial for allegedly covering up ...

Associated Press

Trump prosecutor focuses on ‘cover-up’ in closing arguments while defense attacks key witness

Donald Trump engaged in “a conspiracy and a cover-up,” a prosecutor told jurors during closing arguments Tuesday in the former president's hush money trial.

1 hour ago

Associated Press

A driver with an Oregon-based medical care nonprofit is fatally shot in Ethiopia while in a convoy

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — A staff member with an Oregon medical care nonprofit was killed when the team he was traveling with in a convoy was fired upon in Ethiopia, officials said Monday. Mustefa Alkisim was a Medical Teams International driver traveling in the insecure Amhara region of Ethiopia Friday when men fired at the […]

4 hours ago

Associated Press

European-Japanese climate research satellite launched from California aboard SpaceX rocket

VANDENBERG SPACE FORCE BASE, Calif. (AP) — A European-Japanese climate research satellite designed to study Earth’s temperature balance was launched into orbit from California on Tuesday. The EarthCARE satellite lifted off from coastal Vandenberg Space Force Base atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket at 3:20 p.m. The satellite was successfully deployed about 10 minutes later, […]

4 hours ago

Associated Press

Former California water official pleads guilty to conspiring to steal water from irrigation canal

FRESNO, Calif. (AP) — A former California water official has pleaded guilty to conspiring to steal water in a deal with federal prosecutors in the state’s crop-rich Central Valley. The Los Angeles Times reports Tuesday that 78-year-old Dennis Falaschi, who used to head the Panoche Water District, entered the plea in federal court in Fresno. […]

5 hours ago

Associated Press

Prosecutors build their case at bribery trial of Sen. Bob Menendez with emails and texts

NEW YORK (AP) — Prosecutors were presenting their bribery case against New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez drip-by-drip on Tuesday, showing jurors a steady stream of documents, emails and phone records that they’ll explain more thoroughly later in the trial. The evidence was being shown to Manhattan federal court jurors through the testimony of an FBI […]

5 hours ago

Sponsored Articles


Sanderson Ford

3 new rides for 3 new road trips in Arizona

It's time for the Sanderson Ford Memorial Day sale with the Mighty Fine 69 Anniversary, as Sanderson Ford turned 69 years old in May.


Collins Comfort Masters

Here’s 1 way to ensure your family is drinking safe water

Water is maybe one of the most important resources in our lives, and especially if you have kids, you want them to have access to safe water.


Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Day & Night is looking for the oldest AC in the Valley

Does your air conditioner make weird noises or a burning smell when it starts? If so, you may be due for an AC unit replacement.

Nashville school shooting families accuse senator of using bill to get his way in records lawsuit