Franklin, Tennessee, ethics commission dismisses complaints against alderman over Covenant shooting comments

Franklin Ethics Commission Chairman Jim Martin is seen Wednesday in a screenshot of the livestreamed Ethics Committee meeting. / Tennessee Lookout

The Franklin, Tennessee, ethics commission on Wednesday dismissed complaints about a member of the Board of Mayor and Alderman, finding the member's behavior did not violate provisions of the Franklin Municipal Code.

First term board member Gabrielle Hanson was the subject of 64 citizen complaints about her remarks on the March 27 Covenant School shooting, the potential placing of markers to lynching victims in Franklin, the upcoming Franklin Pride event, a Franklin church and allegedly disparaging comments about Franklin Mayor Ken Moore.

"Virtually all of the complaints are related to comments regarding the Covenant School shooting. That's a thread that runs through all of them," Commission Chairman Jim Martin said. "The overriding question is when you look at the provisions of the Franklin Municipal Code, which we started with, assuming all the complaints are accurate and factual, do they state a colorable claim that the conduct of Ms. Hanson violates any provision of the code?

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"You may be offended by what she said or you may agree with what she said, but the issue is has what she has said or done a violation of the code?" Martin said.

In April, Hanson appeared on the conservative podcast, "Mill Creek View," to discuss the March 27 Covenant School shooting in which three children and three adults were killed. Hanson claimed the shooter's motive was due to a romantic relationship that went awry.

"I felt an active shooter coming," Hanson claimed on the podcast. "Within 30 minutes of that shooting, I had the whole story. It was a love triangle going on."

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Days after the podcast Hanson was a guest on a 99.7 WTN podcast hosted by Matt Murphy and defended her claims. Murphy called Hanson's words inaccurate and "devoid of reality."

Jason Rowlett, a father of a Covenant School student, demanded Hanson's resignation during the May 9 Board of Mayor and Aldermen meeting.

"I'm joined here tonight by other Covenant parents to ask for the resignation of Alderman Gabrielle Hanson," Rowlett said. "If she will not resign, we ask for her removal. Hanson publicly slandered the victims. She has caused further pain and anguish to surviving staff and families."

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During Wedmesday's hearing, commission member and former Franklin Mayor Jerry Sharber referred to the First Amendment's freedom of speech clause.

"I'm troubled by the fact that Alderman Hanson has the right to speak what she wants to say, these complainants have the same right to disagree," said Sharber. "I don't see anything that violates the rules, the ordinance of the city of Franklin."

The commission voted unanimously to dismiss the complaints against Hanson.

Holly McCall contributed to this story.