FRANKLIN, TN (WSMV) -
A favorite stop for Civil War buffs is at the center of a controversy.
A private organization is asking the state to turn over a parcel of land at the Carter House - land owned by the taxpayers - and some are questioning whether two of the board members of that organization with political connections are greasing the skids.
Some 10,000 American soldiers died in the bloody five-hour Battle of Franklin, which was centered, in part, at the Carter House. Carter House sits on land owned by the state of Tennessee.
Now a non-profit group, the Battle of Franklin Trust, is asking the state to give it the land next to the house museum where an old school gymnasium sits.
They want the land to eventually build a visitor center.
The chairman of the trust asking for that land, Marianne Schroer, is married to a member of the governor's cabinet.
Carter House board member James Turner is concerned that because of the board members' political connections, the state may not thoroughly vet the group and its request.
A second member of the governor's cabinet is also a board member of the Battle of Franklin Trust - Tourism Commissioner Susan Whitaker.
Several months ago, Marianne Schroer and Whitaker met with the governor to ask him to deed the land to their group.
Schroer was not available for comment. A spokesman for the Department of Transportation told Channel 4 that Commissioner John Schroer "did not help secure a meeting with the governor's staff," and said it is not unusual for the governor to meet with groups like this one.
The Chief Operating Officer of The Battle of Franklin Trust, Eric Jacobson, denied the group had any special access to the governor.
"No, I just don't think there's a conflict. Everyone we're dealing with, from the Battle of Franklin Trust, to the state, to the historic commission, to the governor, all are very professional people," Jacobson said.
Jacobson said the group wants the land so it can build a visitor center and museum, which he said will boost Franklin's standing as a Civil War destination site.
A spokesperson for the Tennessee Historical Commission said the commission voted in February to accept the concept, but said there are many more steps that would have to be taken before that could happen. Any land transfer would ultimately have to be approved by the legislature.
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