Earlier today, I reported on the News Sentinel‘s reporting of state Sen. Stacey Campfield’s claim that his opponent, Knox County Commissioner Dr. Richard Briggs, is lying about living in the 7th District based on his low water bills and lack of KUB service. (I also noted that you don’t even have to live in a district to run for office in a primary as long as you move there by the election, but if you enter false information on your campaign petition, it is a felony, even if a rarely prosecuted one.)
When I was writing the piece, I called Briggs for a comment. Finally, he called me back. And he wanted to talk. So we met at Panera, just now, and we talked for about 45 minutes. And Briggs is kind of upset. Ok, more than “kind of.”
“This is a non-issue,” Briggs says. “It’s no one’s business where I shower or how often I flush my toilet—and I do flush it, by the way!”
Briggs says that when the KNS’ Tom Humphrey called him yesterday, he was so taken aback that he didn’t know what to say and didn’t give the best-sounding quotes. For one, he doesn’t have a KUB account because his electric bill is with Lenoir City Utilities Board and his water is with First Utility District.
“KUB doesn’t even provide anything there! I couldn’t have a KUB account if I wanted,” Briggs says. Briggs also brought along a bunch of documents he said would be “proof” of his official residence. Having seen said proof with my own eyes, I can tell you that either:
A) Briggs is telling the truth about moving out of his lakeside condo and into a Farragut apartment in August 2012; or,
B) Briggs has gone to a lot of trouble to pretend that he’s been living in an apartment in the 7th District for two years; or,
C) Briggs has a stellar future in forging documents, and every underage University of Tennessee student should be calling him up stat.
Briggs showed me copies of his federal and state tax returns from 2012 and 2013. Both were filed from his 11631 Lanesborough Way, Apt. 931, address. His 2012 and 2013 W-2′s were sent to that address. A county retirement savings statement was sent to that address in 2012. A different retirement account statement was sent to that address in early 2013. He is registered to vote at that address. His handgun permit is for that address. Oh, and his driver’s license is at that address. The date it was issued? September 2, 2012.
That’s my hand you see in that picture. I held his actual license, straight out of his wallet, and took that picture myself. I blurred the nonessential info from the license, per Briggs’ request, but it had all the holograms and fancy fake-ID-preventing technology that my own Tennessee driver’s license has.
I should note here that the other documents I saw were Xeroxes of the originals, with information like Social Security numbers and actual income marked out. I did see Briggs’ actual handgun carry permit, but it doesn’t have the date of issuance on it. (It expires 12/22/2017; Briggs says they’re good for four years and that proves it was issued in December of last year. The state website seems to confirm this is this case.)
So, yes, it is technically possible that Briggs has a crack campaign team who has spent the past 24 hours PhotoShopping his address into documents to address his residency concerns. But if so, they’re pretty good at their jobs. Don’t believe me? That’s why I took photos of more than just his license. You can see them all, if you want. Also included in those photos is Briggs’ June water bill, which indicates he used 400 gallons of water at his apartment.
Yes, that is low—the EPA says the normal American family of four averages 400 gallons a day. Other studies, however, show lower numbers—KUB says a normal single family home averages 69.3 gallons a day, and other utilities estimate 50 gallons a day. However, a lot of those numbers are based on the assumption that a person is running a washing machine and a dishwasher daily, and when you’re a household of one or two people, that’s generally not necessary. (Plus, that EPA number includes watering your lawn, which isn’t possible in an apartment.)
Briggs says he really does shower at the gym or the hospital most of the time, and the reason his wife usually bathes at their lakeside home is because she has a dance studio in it. He says when he leaves for work in the morning, she heads over there to dance and work on her photography—and takes his laundry with her. When he’s on his way home, she leaves, picks up dinner, and meets him back at the apartment. And then, like every normal couple in America, they watch Netflix before going to bed. (Likes House of Cards and Breaking Bad. Couldn’t get into Scandal.)
Again, is it possible that Briggs is totally lying to me? Of course. Politicians do that to reporters. (Campfield does it quite frequently.) But it’s also quite possible—probable, even—that Briggs is telling the truth: that he and his wife really did move out of their home into an apartment in August 2012, planning at the time to get some work done on the property and then put it up for sale, and they have since put those plans on hold, because sometimes it’s hard to sell a house you’ve lived in for 20 years.
In any case, unless Briggs really did show me a batch of faked documents, it’s going to be extremely hard for Campfield (or anyone else) to prove that he’s not a resident of 11631 Lanesborough Way. And, as I wrote earlier, my guess is that Campfield knows this, which is why he went to Humphrey about it instead of contacting the Knox County Election Commission. You’ll note, for instance, that despite Campfield’s regular attacks on his blog, he’s yet to post anything today questioning Briggs’ residency—perhaps he did learn something from the Roger Byrge lawsuit after all …
Oh, and because it’s been brought up elsewhere: The phone number on Briggs’ petition is indeed a landline for his lakeside address. He doesn’t have a landline at his apartment. (Like, you know, most of the country.) Briggs says he called Verizon to see if they would share their records triangulating his location so he could verifiably demonstrate that he’s living in his apartment on nights he’s not in the hospital, but the company said it doesn’t do that.
UPDATE: Yesterday, when all this broke, I emailed Cliff Rodgers, the administrator of elections for Knox County, and asked him if he could look up the date Briggs changed his voter registration to the Lanesborough Way address. This morning, once he was back in the office, Rodgers complied. And it turns out Briggs updated his registration to that address on Aug. 30, 2012. Here’s what they sent over:Above you can see a screencap of Briggs’ registration in the county’s computer system. Below you can see a screencap showing the date he changed his registration. (The writing in both cases is from KCEC, helpfully pointing out the boxes to notice.) Again, this may not prove that Briggs spends the majority of evenings at his apartment, but it does show that he legally established residency in the 7th District almost two years ago, which is two years earlier than Campfield established residency in the 18th District of the House in 2002.