WTVF's Phil Williams reported Wednesday that Republican Rep. Andy Ogles in 2014 raised close to $25,000 for a children's burial garden that was never constructed, but the Tennessee congressman won’t say what the funds were actually used for. Ogles and his wife took in that money from their GoFundMe campaign following the death of their infant son, but he told The Tennessean the next year that regulations had prevented the garden from getting built. Williams, though, now writes, “In fact, there is no evidence that any government regulation would have prevented the purchase of several cemetery plots for burying children.”
Ogles, after initially refusing to answer Williams’ questions, put out a statement saying, “What we raised wasn't enough for our original goal of a more significant memorial, so the purpose evolved from a memorial to direct financial support for families covering the cost of funeral expenses and other needs for their children as opportunities to help arose.” His team, however, did not respond when The Tennessean when it asked if it would be providing documentation showing that the money was used to help these families.
On Thursday, Williams followed up by reporting that Ogles, who’d also said nine years ago that he’d be “purchasing 20 burial sites and donating them to families who lose their children,” would have been able to come close to hitting that target with the money he’d brought in. The congressman’s statement this week claims, “What we raised wasn't enough for our original goal,” but a local funeral director tells Williams that “there is absolutely no cemetery, given space available, that would not have worked with him.” She added, “Back at that time, we could have helped them do something, but they never came back to us.”
The story came about a month after Williams first reported that Ogles appears to have fabricated large portions of his life. One of his GoFundMe donors from nearly a decade ago told the reporter that, while she wanted “to believe that that money went for something good,” the subsequent revelations about Ogles left her with “gnawing questions about what happened to these funds.” Ogles represents Tennessee’s 5th Congressional District, a newly gerrymandered Middle Tennessee district that Donald Trump carried 54-43.