Emails show commissioner wanted to avoid paying personal insurance bill through expensive taxpayer-funded project

NOLENSVILLE, Tenn (WSMV) – When it rains heavily on Bradfield Drive, backyards turn into streams of water.

Emails received from WSMV4. Research authored by City Commissioner Lisa Garramone shows that in July 2021 she was pushing to build a flood wall in the neighborhood to divert water away from homes.

A review of FEMA maps shows that five homes on the street that were not previously in flood plains are now considered to be in a flood plain.

Map of Nolensville flood plains
Map of Nolensville flood plains(photo submitted)

One of the five houses belongs to Garramone.

The early bid to pay for the project: $380,000.

While Garramone eventually disclosed that her home was on Bradfield Drive, emails from WSMV4 Investigates show that she wrote privately that she wanted to avoid paying personal flood insurance by having the flood wall installed.

“We really need to build it so we can start the process with FEMA to get it delisted before it reaches February 2022 so we don’t have to pay that ridiculous flood insurance again,” Garramone wrote to the city manager Victor Lay in July 2021.

WSMV4 Investigates showed the emails to Larry Gardner, a citizen who opposed the flood project.

“It’s only going to help a few people,” Gardner said. “We have many areas in this community that are subject to frequent and worse flooding. I think it’s a pet project to help a few people out. trying to get out of paying flood insurance.”

In August 2021, Garramone writes, “Can we work to speed this up? Several homeowners are hoping that this wall will be installed in time so they don’t waste another $650-$900 on flood insurance, and their policies come into effect in December.”

After Garramone ghosted WSMV4 for an interview to discuss the ticketing scandal that saw her speeding ticket dismissed by Police Chief Roddy Parker, Garramone agreed to answer our questions.

“I think it comes down to perception,” WSMV4 Investigates said.

“I completely understand that,” Garramone said.

“You are a commissioner. And that email — it’s very clear you want to protect your personal property by spending a lot of taxpayer money,” WSMV Investigates said.

“To be fair, when the cost of that wall came back, I agreed with the rest of the commission that we weren’t going to spend that kind of money,” Garramone said.

“At the time (sending the email) you thought this would exempt you from paying flood insurance,” WSMV4 Investigates said.

“Right. Hold on a second, let me walk you through it,” Garramone said.

She went on to explain that when she and her neighbors bought it in 2016, they didn’t know that FEMA would later place them in a floodplain.

Garramone said she thought the flood wall would heal her and her neighbors before realizing it would ultimately not remove them from the flood plain. Garramone also said the flood wall would protect the road’s infrastructure itself, because if flood waters damaged the road and its culvert, the city would have to pay for it.

Responding to criticism that she spent so much time pushing ahead with the floodwall project, Garramone said she’s also been working to get flood defense projects for other citizens.

But none of that erases the fact that she would personally be benefiting from a taxpayer-funded project at the time the email was sent.

“I understand why it sounds like that in the email, if you look at the dollars and cents, it’s not a monetary gain. It would just heal people and bring them back to where they started,” Garramone said.

WSMV4 Investigates had additional questions for Garramone about the ticket scandal, including the fact that she knew her speeding ticket had been dismissed by Police Chief Roddy Parker but said nothing.

Garramone answers these questions on WSMV4 at 10.