Rutherford County Mayor Bill Ketron on Wednesday speaks to reporters outside his insurance agency, Universal International Insurance, as police search the property for evidence in an ongoing alleged fraud investigation. Photo by Ashley Benkarski

By Ashley Benkarski 

MURFREESBORO, TN — Murfreesboro police searched Rutherford County Mayor Bill Ketron’s Universal International Insurance Wed., July 17 after obtaining a warrant in response to charges of alleged insurance fraud. 

Kelsey Ketron Randolph, an elected member of the Tennessee Republican Party Executive Committee who began her second term last year representing District 13, serves as vice president of her father’s insurance agency and has been accused of fraud by customers who said they didn’t receive insurance they’d paid the premiums for. Three customers stepped forward to claim wrongdoing by the agency, with two filing lawsuits in the last two years and the third having filed a police report with Murfreesboro Police Department in March. 

In April of 2017, Smyrna business Martin Construction and Restoration Co. brought a lawsuit against Universal in the circuit court of Rutherford Co. claiming breach of contract, stating the construction company applied for insurance renewal with Berkley Insurance through Universal in June 2016, and paid $11,973.15 in July to the agency for that reason. Universal allegedly didn’t renew the policy, and in Oct. Berkley notified the customer “that the policy renewal had not been paid and that the insurance policy would soon be canceled,” the lawsuit said. 

The plaintiff communicated this information to Universal via email in multiple attempts to resolve the issue and the lawsuit claimed that Randolph responded in Nov. that “everything had been taken care of.” A month later Berkley again notified the company that payment hadn’t been received and the policy was cancelled. The company said it lost coverage and was unable to operate, causing tens of thousands in lost revenue.

On Jan. 27 Randolph sent an email containing what she said was a copy of the check sent to Berkley for the policy, but the date on the check was July 29, 2017– over a year after Martin had paid its premium to Universal, the lawsuit alleged. Again Randolph assured all was in order, but when Martin requested the certificates for the policy, they claimed to not have received them, and said the same happened when the company requested to be refunded. Shortly after, Berkley turned the construction company’s account over to collections. 

Ultimately, Martin’s lawsuit demanded the case be tried by jury as well as a judgement of $150,000 in damages plus costs. The case was settled out of court for an undisclosed amount. 

In 2018 Universal again faced complaints alleging breach of contract when Shelbyville couple Susan and Charles Daniel Calvin filed a lawsuit against the company for similar actions. That lawsuit claims Universal failed to provide Appalachian Underwriters, Inc. additional information and payment as requested for policy issuance, resulting in a loss of coverage that was not communicated to the Calvins though Universal received payment through their escrow account. The couple found they were uninsured after attempting to make a claim when their home was extensively damaged due to frozen pipes. They alleged the situation was made worse “due to their inability to repair the damages in a timely manner” and “inability to qualify for similar homeowner’s insurance in the future,” the lawsuit states.  

The Calvins asked for the case to be tried by jury as well as a judgement of $500,000 plus costs.  

Speaking to reporters Mayor Ketron, also a former state senator, said he’s in shock over the allegations but doesn’t see any acts of impropriety, a view that his daughter’s attorney shares. 

In response to concerns of Randolph soliciting insurance without a license he stated that Randolph had been acting in an administrative capacity, a position exempt from license requirement under the law. He added that he didn’t know what officers were searching for but commented that Randolph’s condominium was also subject to a search warrant. 

County commissioner and attorney Robert Stevens submitted a request July 16 for the mayor to call a special meeting to address the claims against his business and concerns over his “campaign finance accounts, including a history of late filings and numerous substantial fines from the state,” the letter said. Asked about his response to the commissioner’s request, Ketron replied that he couldn’t speak on an open investigation. Ketron said he will maintain transparency and will continue to cooperate with law enforcement.