JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) — Washington County mayoral candidate James Reeves has retracted a statement he made Tuesday about campaign donations to his opponent after Ballad Health CEO Alan Levine , demanded such a retraction on Thursday morning and threatened legal action against Reeves.
“He referenced the fact that (current mayor) Joe Grandy took money from Ballad,” Levine said in an email. “That is obviously false. Ballad Health, as a non-profit organization, does not donate to political candidates.
Levine was referring to Reeves’ Tuesday interview with News Channel 11, during which Reeves discussed campaign donations and suggested that these can influence an elected official’s actions.
“Sometimes you take money because you need money for a campaign,” Reeves said. “He takes money from Ballad, he takes money from Mitch Cox Enterprises (a local construction/real estate company). And that’s what it is.
By mid-morning, Levine had sent News Channel 11 a letter to Reeves from Ballad’s acting general counsel, Andy Wampler. He said Reeves made false statements that “need to be remedied immediately.”
“Your unsubstantiated allegations put Ballad at risk because they suggest Ballad acted improperly with respect to his legal obligations,” reads the letter, which Levine said Ballad was “immediately” delivering to Reeves.
“Such actions would jeopardize Ballad’s legal status and compromise its work to fulfill its mission,” the letter continues.
In addition to Ballad’s statement of Reeves, the letter referenced another quote from Tuesday’s interview: “Similarly, you falsely stated that the Overmountain Recovery contributed to Joe Grandy’s campaign,” a- he declared.
“He was on the board of health and he got donations from a company he approved for a methadone clinic in Gray,” Reeves also said Tuesday.
The letter called for a “frank, unequivocal and uninvolved attempt at justification” retraction. He said if Reeves fails to comply to Ballad’s satisfaction, the hospital system could seek injunctive relief, damages, attorneys’ fees and damages.
By the time Levine told News Channel 11 the letter was being delivered, Reeves had already retracted the statement regarding Ballad in a 9:30 a.m. interview.
“I made a statement,” Reeves said. “I should have clarified. And when I said that, I didn’t mean that Ballad as a company had done that. I can apologize for that… Ballad officials or anyone in Ballad can donate to any campaign they want.
The interview came following a text message from Levine expressing his agreement for News Channel 11 to unilaterally contact Reeves. In the interview, Reeves also noted his own acknowledgment of the rules governing nonprofits and campaign contributions.
“Ballad would be in real trouble if they gave money directly from Ballad,” he said. “They know better, I would definitely say they know better. But anyone who works for Ballad can give us money either way.
In an early morning text statement, Levine said that neither Ballad nor Overmountain, which is a nonprofit partnership between Ballad and East Tennessee State University, “has (never) given any money to a candidate At the mayor”.
News Channel 11 plans to seek comments from Reeves regarding Overmountain Health’s statement.
Ballad’s letter to Reeves can be seen here: