published Wednesday, February 13th, 2013

Rival demands Jack Benson disclose ties to developer

by Cliff Hightower

City Traffic Engineer John Van Winkle told the City Council on Tuesday there would be 13 new traffic signals on state Route 153. The signals will include a new blinking yellow left-turn light. The light means anyone turning left can do so but must yield to oncoming traffic, Winkle said. The lights are part of a $7.4 million grant to help with air quality, he said.

Political campaigning entered the City Council meeting Tuesday night when a council candidate accused a councilman of a possible conflict of interest.

District 4 candidate Larry Grohn got up to speak out against a rezoning case in District 4 and said Councilman Jack Benson, who represents the district, has received his largest donations since 2005 from the developer, Ken Defoor.

"I call on you to disclose your contributions from the developer," Grohn said.

Defoor came before the council to ask for a rezoning of property on Gunbarrel Road from residential to commercial.

Benson did not speak about Grohn's comments during the meeting. Afterward, he said he had little to say.

"It's not worth a comment," Benson said. "It's political."

Defoor got up during the presentation and addressed the accusations. He said he has donated money to Benson's campaigns, but also to Mayor Ron Littlefield's campaigns, mayoral candidate Andy Berke's campaign and Gov. Bill Haslam's campaign.

"I have the right to support anyone I deem good for my community," he said.

Councilwoman Sally Robinson also commented that a City Council meeting was not the right place to be "defaming" a councilman and a respected East Brainerd developer.

"I find your comments inappropriate," she said.

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