State Sen. Jim Summerville was removed Thursday as chairman of the Senate Higher Education Subcommittee after an email sent from his personal email account used a graphic term to convey to the legislature’s black caucus his view of its response to a hearing Summerville chaired last week on grade changes at Tennessee State University.
Further from Richard Locker: “I am very disappointed in the unfortunate choice of words and tone used by Senator Summerville in responding to Rep. (Barbara) Cooper,” Senate Education Committee Chairman Dolores Gresham, R-Somerville, said in a statement Thursday. “There is a standard of courtesy that must be observed by members of the General Assembly and this went beyond what is acceptable. He has been removed as the Senate Higher Education Subcommittee Chairman.”
Summerville, R-Dickson, did not return repeated calls and emails from reporters to his home and office for comment. The email was sent to Cooper, D-Memphis, Wednesday night and, apparently at Summerville’s request, she forwarded it to her colleagues in the black caucus and other legislators. Summerville is a freshman lawmaker known for his candid public statements.
The message from a personal email address that Summerville has publicly posted as his says: “I don’t give a rat’s ass what the black caucus thinks. Jim Summerville”
The subject line of Summerville’s email to Cooper says “Please share this response with your colleagues”.
The email address, email@example.com, is one that Summerville has publicly posted as his personal contact for several years on various websites, including the National Association of Scholars, of which he was Tennessee chapter president. He is an adjunct professor of history at Austin Peay State University.
Cooper could not be reached for immediate comment but Rep. Larry Miller, D-Memphis, chairman of the legislative black caucus, said that if the message is from Summerville, “that’s appalling. Not only does he embarrass himself, he embarrasses the entire state of Tennessee by making a statement like that. It makes you wonder what his state of mind was at the time. Why would a state senator even think that and why would you put it out publicly?
— Note: Statement from House Democratic Caucus, Democratic party below.
Attorneys for The Commercial Appeal said Thursday the law firm representing the Shelby County Commission has run afoul of the First Amendment, two federal statutes, the Tennessee reporter’s shield law and “just plain good sense” in a subpoena asking for the identities of commenters on stories about planned suburban school districts. Memphis attorney Lucian Pera and Washington attorney Paul Alan Levy, a member of the Public Citizen Litigation Group, asked in a letter to the Baker Donelson law firm that it withdraw the subpoena request. The request was filed in federal court July 25, asking for the identities of all online commenters to 45 stories that ran between Nov. 19, 2010, and July 12, 2012.
In the letter, the newspaper attorneys said those stories produced more than 9,000 comments on The Commercial Appeal’s website and included stories that ran after legislation already was passed in the Tennessee legislature to authorize referendums on whether to set up independent school districts in six municipalities.
Meanwhile, TNReport says Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris is not happy with a Shelby subpoena for legislator email: Sen. Mark Norris says he will comply with the Shelby County Commission’s requests for all correspondence dealing with the controversial Memphis-Shelby schools merger. But the Senate majority leader and chief architect of legislation dictating rules for combining the school systems thinks the demand is being made principally in the spirit of hassling him and other lawmakers.
“It is a major fishing expedition, but you know, knock themselves out. We’ll give them what we have,” said Norris, a Republican from Collierville, told TNReport this week.
Lawyers for the Shelby County Commission are asking the General Assembly to fork over any communication related to laws dictating rules for the merger between the two school systems as they assemble a case in court to block six suburbs from beginning their own school systems.
The commission is asking for documents dating back as far as 2010 relating to three laws dictating rules for the merger, namely SB25, SB1923 and SB2908.
Lawyers handling the County Commission’s municipal school district lawsuit have asked the entire Tennessee legislature for “all communications or letters,” including e-mail, regarding the consolidation of the city and county schools and the creation of new municipal school districts.
More from The Commercial Appeal: The request by lawyers from the Baker Donelson law firm includes communications from “any citizen, constituents, residents or anyone else,” legislative administrators said Monday.
Unlike the commission legal team’s search for other information in the case, the request directed to the General Assembly was not issued in the form of a subpoena, a legal demand that the requested material be delivered. However, legislative officials said they are complying with the request and sent a letter Friday to all 132 members of the General Assembly and their aides “asking them to review their records in their office and if they had anything they felt fell under the scope of the request to please provide it to” the Office of Legislative Administration, Director of Legislative Administration Connie Ridley said.
Ridley said her office, which handles the legislative branch’s administrative functions, received the request letter from Baker Donelson attorney Lori Patterson. The letter asks for “all communications or letters received in any format, including electronic mail, from any citizen, constituent, resident or anyone else concerning or related to the consolidation of the Memphis City Schools with the Shelby County school system, the creation of municipal or special
school districts in Shelby County or any legislation, bill, ordinance or resolution related thereto.”
Ridley said she wrote the attorneys back July 26 asking for clarification because the request was very broad and “in order to help us respond quickly, it would help to narrow it down.” She received the response Friday and forwarded the information request to all members of the legislature and their aides.
Patterson’s response indicated the attorneys were interested in any communications regarding the three bills affecting the school consolidation effort and new municipal school districts that won legislative approval in 2011 and 2012.
The request is the latest in the County Commission’s legal efforts to block creation of six new school districts in the Shelby County suburbs, all of which were approved by their respective voters Thursday. The lawsuit alleges that the new-district movement is an effort to re-segregate schools on the basis of race, in violation of federal law.
Although the attorneys have not said so, the subpoena issued to The Commercial Appeal demanding identities of people who posted online comments on school consolidation articles on the newspaper’s website and the request for information to lawmakers are believed to be an attempt to gather indications of racial motivation by some advocates of the new school systems.
A Republican member of the Tennessee state legislature emailed constituents Tuesday morning with a rumor circulating in conservative circles that President Barack Obama is planning to stage a fake assassination attempt in an effort to stop the 2012 election from happening.
Further from The Huffington Post: Rep. Kelly Keisling (R-Byrdstown) sent an email from his state email account to constituents containing a rumor that Obama and the Department of Homeland Security are planning a series of events that could lead to the imposition of “martial law” and delay the election. Among the events hypothesized in the email is a staged assassination attempt on the president that would lead to civil unrest in urban areas and martial law.
Keisling appears to have forwarded a more widely circulated email from Joe Angione, a Florida-based conservative blogger. Angione prefaces the rumor by saying it has not been confirmed but likewise notes it has not been denied. Angione also writes that people need to work to prevent the rumor from becoming reality.
The conspiracy theory started with an article written by Doug Hammon and posted on CanadaFreePress.com, which he said arose from conversations he had with an informant within the Department of Homeland Security.
….Keisling’s assistant, Frankie Anderson, confirmed that the email was sent “at Keisling’s request” from a state account under the name of Holt Whitt, who is identified in the email as Keisling’s assistant. Anderson said he is filling in for Whitt.
Anderson said that Keisling did not offer an explanation for why he wanted the email sent. It went to residents across the 38th district, which includes Clay, Jackson, Pickett and Scott Counties, along with part of Anderson County. Keisling has not returned messages left at his Byrdstown insurance office, and there was no answer at his home.
— Note: The forwarded email is below.
Republican state Rep. John Ragan says he has removed his state office phone number and state email address from his campaign website as a “courtesy” to a constituent who complained — opponent and Democrat Jim Hackworth.
Hackworth this week sent reporters an email declaring Ragan, who represents District 33 in Anderson County, had run afoul of state laws with his campaign website, http://johndragan.com, on two fronts. He added a third example in an interview.
First, Hackworth said that by giving his state office telephone number and state government email address as a means of communicating on campaign matters, Ragan appeared in violation of the state’s “Little Hatch Act,” which generally prohibits use of taxpayer-paid equipment for political purposes. Hackworth said a caller to Ragan’s state office asking for campaign information was referred to a separate number, providing another indication that state facilities were being used for politics.
Via an email to constituents, state Rep. Julia Hurley has responded to what she describes as “liberal media” accounts of various activities that have drawn attention over recent months.
Meanwhile, Hurley’ s fame is spreading. She has been listed in a Washington Times list of the nation’s “30 hottest political women,” along with Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachmann. It’s just a mention — she is described only as “a former Hooters waitress who is now a member of the Tennessee Legislature.”
As an example of the emailed commentary, here is Hurley’s response (writing of herself in third person) to reports that she carved her initials on her desk in the state House of Representatives chamber: “Representative Hurley carved her initials in her desk in Nashville. Yes, she did. If you have ever visited Nashville or Washington D.C. you will see MANY names and initials carved into the tops, sides, legs and inside drawers of desks with over a hundred years of history.
“Not only did this make front page news, the liberal media decided to associate Representative Hurley as being a vandal, while two hundred years of history has shown this to be a traditional act in all aspects of Legislators services.
On top of admitting that she did this, Representative Hurley paid to have the entire desk revamped. Something that no other legislator has ever been asked to do or been attacked in the media for doing.”
Hurley also reviews her run-in with a Highway Patrol officer (who, she says in the email, is “the sister of Dennis Ferguson’s campaign manager. Ferguson is the former Democratic legislator defeated by Hurley in 2010.) and two episodes with her dog.
On one occasion, she brought the dog, Pepper, into the Roane County Courthouse where pets are not authorized. In her report, Hurley says that, at the time of her encounter, “Property Assessor Teresa Kirkham had just left with her two dogs, leaving behind their dog beds and two mice were just brought in the the courthouse to feed the 4-H pet snake held on the third floor.”
On the other, most recent occasion, Hurley had posted on Facebook a video of Pepper “air swimmng” – paddling with her paws as she was held outside a moving car. “I cannot even imagine what the people who accuse Representative Hurley of abusing her dog consider abuse. Are these the same people that leave their pet outside in hot or cold weather? Do they also clothe their dogs? Feed them gluten-free food? Bathe them daily after having to wear 100spf sunscreen from being in the sun? Let their canine sleep in their bed so they do not shiver at night? I feel it necessary to say these things, because I love my pet. I take care of things I care about… much like the 32nd District.”
In Tennessee, Hurley’s activities have inspired considerable commentary among the state’s politically-oriented bloggers.
Especially notable, Steve Hale has a rundown, including videos, of Hurley’s “greatest hits.”
See also, for example, Betsy Phillips latest, which is on the hijacking of Hurley’s website. The website episode also inspired Trace Sharp to offer some advice to other politicians, namely Own Your Own Identity.
Though Hurley’s email says copies were sent to the press, yours truly didn’t get one and neither did Bob Fowler, the KNS reporter who initially wrote about some of those activities. But Brian Hornback and RoaneViews did and have posted the email in full (Hornback has also posted a rebuttal from a fellow mentioned by Hurley.)
— Note: This updates, replaces and expands an earlier post.
A lobbyist’s email was sent under state Rep. Bob Ramsey’s name, using his legislative office computer, to urge that all state representatives vote against a bill on taxing roll-your-own cigarettes, those involved said Tuesday.
The episode Monday led Ramsey, chairman of the House State and Local Government Committee, to send a follow-up message to colleagues saying the email “was sent out from my e-mail account without my knowledge” and “in no way reflects my opinion of the matter.”
It also led House Speaker Beth Harwell to speak with Ramsey, his assistant, Angela Brown, and lobbyist Dan Haskell.
“I heard his (Haskell’s) side of the story,” Harwell said. “I talked to Rep. Ramsey and his assistant and made it clear that legislative equipment and email are for legislative staff and our members only.”
By Lucas Johnson, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A flood of support for Wall Street protesters poured in after Gov. Bill Haslam imposed a curfew that led to the arrests of 55 people in Nashville, according to public records obtained by The Associated Press on Tuesday.
Of nearly 400 emails sent to the Republican governor’s office, only 11 supported his actions.
“Keep up the good work,” said an email from Sherri Tittle. “I appreciate you not being swayed by these protesters or the media.”
However, the majority voiced their disdain, some from as far away as Australia.
“I write to you from Repton, NSW, Australia, to express my strongest disapproval of the actions you are taking against the members of Occupy Nashville,” wrote Nick Rose. “Freedom of assembly is a basic right. Your actions are flagrant violations.”
Jeff Woods has been “dipping his beak” into the pile of correspondence released by three Republican state legislators in connection with a lawsuit challenging a bill that repeals a Nashville anti-discrimination ordinance.
He highlights an email to Sen. Mae Beavers, R-Mount Juliet, from David Fowler, lobbyists for the Family Action Council of Tennessee. Fowler shockingly treats Beavers like a puppet on a string (does the Christian fundamentalist lobby really hold such power in Nashville?) and instructs her precisely what to say about the Tennessee Family Action Council’s bill. He obviously views Beavers as not exactly the sharpest knife in the drawer, but useful just the same as his bill’s sponsor.
“The bill itself is not that complicated,” Fowler writes. “We don’t need more regulation of business and business sure doesn’t need the 348 different cities coming up with their own ideas of what a discriminatory practice is. That’s the line and you just repeat it like Glen Casada did last night when the bill passed the House 73 to 24.”
“Will the homosexuals be upset?” Fowler then asks. “Sure. But to be honest, they seem to be rather resigned on this bill.”
…. It’s not clear whether any of this will help the plaintiffs in the gay rights lawsuit. They need to prove that lawmakers adopted their law, not for their stated purpose of preventing burdensome new business regulations, but because of bias against gay people.
Fowler’s email can be read either way. The bill stops confusing business regulations–“that’s the line” he wants Beavers to recite. It’s certainly Fowler’s script. It may (or may not) be subterfuge.
The emails in Beavers’ file show a lot of people obsessed with gay bashing, but there’s no smoking gun.
Emailed letter from Weston Wamp:
After months of prayer, advice and planning, on October 2nd I announced my candidacy for Congress from Tennessee’s 3rd District.
Our nation is at a crossroads. I believe that members of my generation, the “Debt Paying Generation,” must begin to show leadership and offer a new mentality in Washington D.C. Together, we can change the direction of our country before it’s too late.
The status quo is not working and it’s clear that people want something different.
As a young entrepreneur, I’ve seen how the free enterprise system relies on young leaders to bring new ideas, solve problems, and push the envelope. We need that in government.
It’s time for leadership that transcends partisan politics and puts our country ahead of political party. For too long DC politicians have tried to convince the American people that they can solve the economy’s problems. Their efforts have failed to encourage growth, resulted in a convoluted tax code and over-regulation of small businesses.
We need leaders who will reform and simplify the tax code to provide more certainty and fewer burdens for small businesses. The federal government shouldn’t pick winners and losers; it should get out of the way of entrepreneurs, risk takers, and hard-working Americans who are the proven job creators.
I am passionate about leading my generation to meet the challenges that threaten the future of our country. Your help will allow me to share my message with people across Tennessee’s 3rd District.
Please visit westonwamp.com, watch and share the web video “Generations,” connect with the campaign on Facebook and Twitter and, most importantly, please invest in my campaign financially.
Contributions of any size are important to the success of this campaign and giving the “Debt Paying Generation” a strong voice in the debate in Washington. Follow this link or the one below to donate now!
I thank you in advance for your support!