A view of the Tennessee state Capitol in downtown Nashville. (Photo: Larry McCormack / The Tennessean)

Tennessee’s Registry of Election Finance violated open meetings law when it voted by email to reduce a state lawmaker’s fines in April, a judge ruled Friday. 

Davidson County Chancellor Ellen Hobbs Lyle rejected the state’s argument that the vote was inconsequential and therefore unnecessary to be taken in public.

“Even though it’s the attorney general who has the authority as the litigator, the litigating attorney, to decide whether to accept or reject a settlement, certainly the registry’s input is a weighty one,” Lyle ruled from the bench Friday. “The public is relying on it to use its independence to assist with election violations.”

The secret vote, first reported by The Tennessean, involved a settlement of penalties that could have kept Rep. Joe Towns, D-Memphis, from being eligible to run for office — on