Culture of Corruption: Metro Nashville Paid $175,000 for ‘Cost-Efficient’ Paint Job to Spruce Up Fairgrounds and It’s ‘Already Peeling’

Rich Riebeling

The Nashville Metro government paid over $175,000 to paint the fairgrounds but Larry Atema, the fairgrounds project manager, asked the painting contractor who did the job to use “cost-efficient paint” that turned out to be under warranty for only three months. “But some of that paint is already peeling, after less than a year,” the News 4 I-Team reported in the investigation that broke the story.

Metro Council had voted two years ago to invest $12 million to spruce The Fairgrounds Nashville up, the station said.

The News4 I-Team said it found emails in July 2017 between Larry Atema, CEO of Commonwealth Development and the fairground project manager, and Metro Nashville Chief Operating Officer Rich Riebeling discussing the details of the $175,000 paint job. The two are friends, the news station said.

Riebeling, the long time city finance director under former Mayor Karl Dean, has served as the Chief Operating Officer of Metro Nashville since the election of former Mayor Megan Barry in 2015.

“The culture of corruption that has permeated Metro Nashville Government for years revolves around Chief Operating Officer Rich Riebeling, the man who appears to be in control of all the reins of power,” The Tennessee Star reported in May, noting several specific examples.

Atema told Riebeling that $175,000 would be spent in painting buildings “so they look better” while the city figures out “Fairgrounds use options,” News 4 said. That option turned out a year later to involve voting to demolish most of the site to build a soccer stadium.

That vote was controversial given the many uses at the fairgrounds and the plethora of costly city projects. The objections of some on the Metro Council to the $250 million plan were overridden.

The Nashville Sports Authority was a finalist for the Beacon Center’s 2017 “Pork of the Year,” as The Star reported.

The Beacon Center described the Nashville Sports Authority in these terms:

The practice of subsidizing stadiums with taxpayer money is becoming less and less popular nationwide, yet the city of Nashville seems to have no plans of slowing down. As we start to have a discussion about a new MLS stadium, which will be heavily subsidized by taxpayers, it is time we take a stand and stop this corrupt and unethical practice.

During the recent mayoral campaign which David Briley won with 54 percent of the vote on May 24, his nearest rival, former Vanderbilt professor Carol Swain, who received 23 percent of the vote, called on Briley to fire Riebeling “for misappropriation of funds,” as The Star reported:

“Today, I am calling for acting Mayor David Briley to terminate Metro COO Rich Riebeling for misappropriation of funds. If he does not fire Riebeling it will show he is truly committed to ‘continuity’ of a system that has rewarded big business and developers at the expense of the citizens of Nashville,” Swain said in the statement.

“I would also like to state my unequivocal support for the Fairgrounds. I think it is important and necessary to honor the Rains family’s wishes that the Tennessee State Fair would be held on the land they gave to the city,” she added.

“Over the last decade, there has been a concerted effort by members of the Metropolitan government to fundamentally change the character of the Fairgrounds. Men like Rich Riebeling and Larry Atema have misappropriated funds that were earmarked for much needed improvements,” the former Vanderbilt professor continued.

“The biggest personnel question involves the future of Chief Operating Officer Rich Riebeling, a top aide under former Mayor Karl Dean, Barry and now Briley.Briley said he and Riebeling agreed to wait to speak until after the election about his future, and they haven’t had time to do so yet,” The Tennessean reported on May 27, three days after Briley won the mayoral election.


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4 Thoughts to “Culture of Corruption: Metro Nashville Paid $175,000 for ‘Cost-Efficient’ Paint Job to Spruce Up Fairgrounds and It’s ‘Already Peeling’”

  1. Randall

    Just another Democrat run city.

  2. Lloyd Barnett

    Culture of Corruption indeed! In our not too distant past this type of sleaziness would not be tolerated. I am truly disappointed with what our society has become!

  3. Ned T.

    It is scary that NONE of this would have been discovered if drop-your-drawers Megan had not been exposed (hehehehhe…exposed).

    The Nashville Metro government is swimming in money and is corrupt as horsehockey. The “progressives” love collecting taxes and paying themselves.

  4. Daniel Mccord

    With as many times as he has been caught with his hands in the cookie jar as he has, how does Riebling even still have a job with Metro? Pure arrogance at it’s worst. He has been exposed multiple times over his corruption and schemes to eliminate the Fairgrounds as we know it with no one in power stopping him or even attempting to slow him down any.