Liquor proponents quiet so far

Group may consider legal action as election challenge continue
Dec. 10, 2012 @ 12:42 AM

The group that campaigned in favor of legalizing liquor by the drink at local restaurants has been largely silent since opponents filed a contest of election, but one of its leading spokesmen said Friday the group is considering filing a motion seeking standing to join in the defense.

Forging Ahead is considering whether to hire an attorney to represent its interests and those of people who voted in favor of the referendum to allow the sale of liquor by the drink in Pigeon Forge, spokesman Ken Maples said.

The group was created this year to seek votes for the measure, which was approved in the November election by a vote of 1,232 to 1,132. Concerned Churches and Citizens of Pigeon Forge, the group that opposed the referendum, has filed a lawsuit asking Chancellor Telford Forgety to toss that result because of allegations that more than 300 votes appeared to come from people who weren’t registered to vote in the city.

The complaint doesn’t include any allegations that Forging Ahead was involved in improper voting; in fact Forging Ahead isn’t mentioned in the lawsuit. In part because of that, the organization has been largely silent on the matter. “We’ve been quiet because we want the court to decide,” Maples said.

They are now considering the option of filing briefs in the case as a supporter of the referendum, although they have not made a final decision and have not retained an attorney for that purpose, Maples said.

The group, formed this year to campaign in favor of the referendum, would be representing itself as well as the people who cast votes in favor of the referendum. “They deserve protection, too,” Maples said.

Maples said the group is confident the vote reflected the wishes of most of Pigeon Forge residents.

“We are confident that last months’ vote represents the true opinion of Pigeon Forge voters, who took a stand in favor of increased education funding and the right to choose,” he said in a written statement.

The group’s campaign focused on the notion that liquor by the drink sales would mean additional funding for city schools. Under state law, a mandatory tax on liquor by the drink sends money back to cities, and because Pigeon Forge has premiere resort status with the state, those funds must be spent on schools inside the city.

“We know that alcohol opponents have tried to muddy the water and cast doubt on the election process, but thus far their argument is long on accusations and short on facts. The election commission and their legal counsel are conducting an internal review of the vote, and The Mountain Press has reported that they are finding that some of he so-called 'erroneous votes' to be perfectly legal.”

The Mountain Press has related comments from Administrator of Elections Ronee Flynn that they have accounted for some of the votes as election officials reviewed the ballots after the contest was filed.

jfarrell@themountainpress.com