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Chattanooga hosted the first meeting of a Tennessee campaign finance watchdog group outside of the state capital on Wednesday, the first step in the board's effort to be more accessible to other parts of the state.

The Tennessee Registry of Election Finance, which performs audits and enforces laws about campaign financial disclosures, contributions and expenditures involving candidates, campaigns and committees statewide, met in downtown Chattanooga for its regular monthly meeting.

"The purpose of this meeting is the board felt it would be good to get out and travel around the state and let other folks in other cities know what we do," Executive Director Bill Young said. "I want to thank the members of the General Assembly who showed up here today and also the other folks who showed up to welcome us to Chattanooga."

State Reps. Robin Smith, R-Hixson; Mike Carter, R-Ooltewah; and Yusuf Hakeem, D-Chattanooga, attended the meeting, during which the board discussed regular business ranging from enforcement actions to planning new ways to be more transparent.

The agency's most notable decision was a unanimous vote to fine Rutherford County Mayor Bill Ketron $10,000 for ignoring previous fines from the board for more than 150 days.

"I've got a real problem with Mayor [Ketron]," Board Secretary Tom Lawless said of the mayor who now owes $20,000 in fines for failing to file the 2018 year-end supplemental campaign financial disclosure for his state Senate account.

The agency's fine comes shortly after a decision to issue new subpoenas for documents related to Ketron's campaign finances after the former senator's daughter and former campaign treasurer, Kelsey Ketron, was indicted and charged with more than 70 counts related to insurance fraud at the Ketron family insurance company, Universal International Insurance.

During the meeting, Young also said that an audit into former Tennessee Speaker of the House Glen Casada was on track to conclude in February.

In other business, Young asked the board to consider an offer to change meeting dates and locations to move to a Senate committee room in order to livestream the meetings from the more equipped location. While no member of the board expressly opposed relocating or streaming the meetings, logistical concerns about traveling, parking and day of the week barred the group from voting to move the meetings.

"I think the more transparent we are, the better we are," Lawless said of the relocation. "Clearly, I like the idea of streaming."

At this time, the Tennessee Registry of Election Finance does not have any future meetings scheduled outside of Nashville, but it plans to host similar meetings in each of Tennessee's largest cities.

Contact Sarah Grace Taylor at 423-757-6416 or at staylor@timesfreepress.com. Follow her on Twitter at @_sarahgtaylor.

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