State Senate Staffer Reported Doing Political Work on State Time

A Tennessee Senate staffer appears to have been doing political work while collecting a full-time state paycheck, an apparent violation of state law, public records and documents reviewed by TNReport show.
Derek Hummel has been executive secretary for Sen. Ophelia Ford, D-Memphis, since April of this year, drawing a $30,468 annual salary. Over the past three months, he has also been conducting political activities during state business hours on his state-issued computer, according to phone records and Facebook postings.
Hummel has identified himself as field director for the Phillip North for State Senate campaign. Hummel was paid $625 in September by the North campaign, according to campaign finance filings released last week.
When TNReport visited Ford’s office at the Capitol last week to interview Hummel, no one was present, but Hummel’s desk was strewn with what appeared to be campaign material, and political documents were visible on his taxpayer-funded desktop computer.
During an attempt to interview Hummel today, he accused TNReport of violating state law by calling him on his government-office phone.
“You’re an idiot,” Hummel told TNReport. “I’m calling Bill Fletcher,” he added, before abruptly hanging up. Fletcher is a prominent Tennessee Democratic campaign advertising specialist and political strategist.
…According to a state law call the “Little Hatch Act,” state employees are prohibited from “engaging in political activity not directly a part of that person’s employment during any period when the person should be conducting business of the state.” The law mirrors the federal Hatch Act.


Note: The state Republican party’s rapid response team had criticizing news release out promptly. Here it is:
Tennessee Republican Party Executive Director Adam Nickas today released the following statement regarding a news report that Democrat State Senate candidate Phillip North’s Campaign Field Director ran campaign operations out of the legislative office of Sen. Ophelia Ford (D-Memphis) with state-owned equipment on state time:
“Phillip North has set a new low for public corruption. Without ever serving a day in the legislature, Phillip North has managed to violate our system’s most basic legal and ethical boundaries. It is disgraceful that North would allow a state employee to work on his campaign full-time while drawing a check for full-time work from the taxpayers of Tennessee. North has broken trust with the citizens of Nashville by having taxpayers subsidize his campaign effort. He should immediately return to taxpayers the money his field director took while he was explicitly doing political work on state-owned equipment on state time.”

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