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 Thursday morning and threatened legal action against Reeves.
“He referenced that (current mayor) Joe Grandy has taken money from Ballad,” Levine said in an email. “That is patently false. Ballad Health, as a not-for-profit, does not donate to political candidates.”
Levine was referring to Reeves’s Tuesday interview with News Channel 11, during which Reeves brought up campaign donations and suggested those 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/property company). And it is what it is.”
By mid-morning, Levine had sent News Channel 11 a letter to Reeves from Ballad’s acting general counsel, Andy Wampler. It said Reeves had made false statements that “must be remedied immediately.”
“Your unfounded allegations put Ballad at risk as they suggest that Ballad has acted improperly regarding its legal obligations,” reads the letter, which Levine said Ballad was delivering to Reeves “immediately.”
“Such actions would put Ballad’s legal status in jeopardy and compromise its work to fulfill its mission,” the letter continues.
In addition to Reeves’s Ballad statement, the letter referenced another quote from the Tuesday interview: “Likewise, you falsely stated the Overmountain Recovery made contributions to Joe Grandy’s campaign,” it said.
“He was on the health board and he took the donations from a company that he approved a methadone clinic in Gray,” Reeves also said Tuesday.
The letter demanded a retraction that is “frank, unequivocal, and not mixed with an attempted justification.” It said if Reeves didn’t comply to Ballad’s satisfaction, the hospital system could seek injunctive relief, monetary damages, attorneys’ fees and damages.
By the time Levine told News Channel 11 the letter was being delivered, Reeves had already retracted the statement about Ballad in a 9:30 a.m. interview.
“I made a statement,” Reeves said. “Should have clarified. And when I said it, I didn’t mean to say that Ballad as a corporation did that. I can apologize for that … Ballad officials or anybody in Ballad can give to any campaign they want.”
The interview came following a text message from Levine expressing his agreement to News Channel 11 contacting Reeves unilaterally. In the interview, Reeves also noted his own recognition of rules governing non-profits and campaign contributions.
“Ballad would be really in trouble if they gave money straight from Ballad,” he said. “They know better, I would definitely say they know better. But anybody that works for Ballad can give either one of us money.”
In an early morning statement via text, Levine said neither Ballad nor Overmountain, which is a not-for-profit partnership between Ballad and East Tennessee State University, “has (ever) donated money to a candidate for Mayor.”
News Channel 11 plans to seek comment from Reeves regarding the Overmountain Health statement.
Ballad’s letter to Reeves can be seen here: