Tennessee's Bureau of Ethics and Campaign Finance has dismissed as "frivolous" and a "cheap shot" a complaint filed by Bradley County Sheriff Jim Ruth against his GOP primary campaign opponent.
Ruth filed a complaint in January alleging that challenger Eric Watson had "fraudulently," "unethically and even illegally" used money donated for his 2012 state representative race in his sheriff's campaign.
Watson denied the charge and said in a news release Wednesday evening that the ethics ruling vindicated him.
Ruth could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
The release quoted ethics registry member Hank Fincher as calling the Ruth complaint "a borderline abuse of process."
"To me it looks like a cheap-shot campaign gimmick, trying to make something out of nothing. I'd expect better from an officer of the law," Fincher said in the release.
Watson said in the release that Ruth didn't even come to Nashville for the Registry and Election Finance Bureau hearing on the complaint.
"His failure to do so shows a complete lack of respect for the Tennessee Ethics Commission, the citizens of Tennessee , the citizens of Bradley County, and further indicates he knew the allegations were frivolous, and nothing more then a cheap, dirty, political trick," Watson said.
Watson stated. "I have always stood for strong campaign ethics and finance laws for Tennessee and today's decision of the commission to dismiss Ruth's complaint as being without merit shows just that. ... The real losers in this process are the taxpayers that have to pay for a hearing on a frivolous charge that was simply another negative campaign trick of a desperate campaign that has nothing good to stand upon after four years in office."
Judy Walton has worked 25 years at the Chattanooga Times and the Times Free Press as an editor and reporter focusing on government coverage and investigations. At various times she has been an assistant metro editor, region reporter and editor, county government reporter, government-beat team leader, features editor and page designer. Originally from California, Walton was brought up in a military family and attended a dozen schools across the country. She earned a journalism degree ...