Sen. Campfield’s executive assistant dismissed after outside-of-office work

Bryan Dodson, a political adviser to state Sen. Stacey Campfield, has been dismissed from his state job as the senator’s executive assistant, apparently for spending most of August in Knoxville instead his Nashville office as rules for legislative staff require.

Campfield, R-Knoxville, said Dodson has been acting “as my person in Knoxville when I’m not in Knoxville” and his understanding was that Dodson had been given special permission by Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey’s office to work outside of the state government complex in Nashville.

Asked if Dodson’s duties had included door-to-door visits to constituents, Campfield replied, “He was doing the same thing for me that Bob Griffitts does for John Duncan.” Griffitts is the Knoxville-based chief of staff for U.S. Rep. John J. Duncan Jr.
“He (Dodson) went to events for me. He listened to people. He handed out proclamations, questionnaires, resolutions,” said Campfield.

Adam Kleinheider, communications director for Ramsey, and Connie Ridley, director of the Legislative Office of Administration, confirmed that Dodson had been terminated and taken off the state payroll effective after Monday, Sept. 30. He was paid his regular monthly salary – $3,362, according to a state government website – for August and September, Ridley said.

Dodson’s work time sheet for August, a public record obtained by the News Sentinel, shows Dodson writing that he worked from 8 am to 4:30 pm on all work days during the month. But beside the date Aug. 12, he wrote on the form “in Knox” with a line and arrow going down through Aug. 30.

Kleinheider and Ridley refused to discuss reasons for Dodson’s dismissal, citing state confidentiality rules. But in response to a question about Dodson’s time sheet entry showing he worked in Knoxville, Ridley replied, “That’s a violation of our policy.”

She read a rule that says all legislative staff work must be performed at “the employee’s official station,” limited to the Legislative Plaza and the War Memorial Building – which house all legislators’ offices – and the state capitol building where House and Senate sessions are held. Exceptions are occasionally granted with advance approval, but typically only when a legislative committee is holding a special meeting away from Nashville or some similar situation.

“Apparently, he (Dodson) did not get the written approval that he was required to,” said Campfield, who added that he has discussed the matter with Ramsey.

Last year, Derek Hummel, an aide to state Sen. Ophelia Ford, D-Memphis, was fired after reportedly engaging in political activities on the state payroll. Legislative staffers familiar with the system said that the rules cited by Ridley are intended to prevent political activity while drawing state pay.

Dodson could not be reached for comment. He went to work in Campfield’s Senate office in early 2011 after working in Campfield’s successful 2010 campaign for the Senate as well as his earlier campaigns for the state House.

Though listed as Campfield’s campaign manager in some published accounts, the senator said that was not the case because “I run my own campaigns.” Registry of Election Finance Records show Campfield reported payments totaling $12,500 to Dodson and Associates in his successful 2010.

Dodson ran for office once himself, losing to then-Rep. Steve Buttry, R-Knoxville, in the 2000 Republican primary.
Registry records show Dodson received payments from the campaigns of three House Republican candidates in 2012 — Reps. Steve Hall, R-Knoxville, and Jeremy Durham, R-Franklin; as well as Ben Claybaker, who lost a campaign for a Nashville-based seat.

Knox County Commissioner Richard Briggs, a surgeon, has announced his candidacy against Campfield in the 2014 Republican primary. Briggs said Wednesday that he had heard a “rumor mill” report of Dodson’s dismissal, but knew nothing of the situation and could “absolutely guarantee” that neither himself or anyone acting on his behalf had complained about Dodson’s activity.

Campfield, asked at one point by a reporter whether Dodson had been campaigning on his behalf, replied, “He hasn’t been campaigning for me because I haven’t begun campaigning.”

Justin Marion, who lives in Campfield’s Knoxville district, said in a telephone interview Wednesday that a man knocked on his door a few weeks ago “promoting Stacey Campfield” and carrying various literature involving the senator or state government. While Marion could not positively identify the man, he said the man introduced himself and the name Bryan Dodson “does ring a bell.”