Michael Lofti, state Rep. Andy Holt’s legislative assistant, was fired Thursday morning amid questions about work he’s done through his personal political company for several state lawmakers, reports The Tennessean. .
(Connie) Ridley, who is the director of Legislative Administration, confirmed that she met with Lotfi on Thursday and informed him that he would not be retained for the upcoming 110th General Assembly. When asked for an explanation about the decision, Ridley said she is not allowed to discuss personnel actions.
…Lotfi said Thursday that Ridley told him some legislators and staff members working at the Capitol were “uncomfortable” with him being in the statehouse and working on legislative campaigns.
Since 2014, Lotfi’s company — BrandFire Consulting — has been hired by several state lawmakers, including Holt, R-Dresden; Reps. Jeremy Durham, R-Franklin; Sheila Butt, R-Columbia; and Bryan Terry, R-Murfreesboro; in addition to Sen. Mark Green, R-Clarksville.
BrandFire has received nearly $200,000 in payments for providing everything from advertising and consulting to web development related to political campaigns, according to state records. Lotfi says he didn’t pocket all of that money, instead using it to pay employees and for ads for some of his clients.
Lotfi, who made $2,858 a month as Holt’s assistant, said when he met with Ridley she handed him a sheet of paper outlining the history of BrandFire’s business. He said she told him he was “making too much money.”
Trying to further explain what he believe led to his firing, Lotfi said there also were rumors circulating around the Capitol that he was involved in Rocky Top Politics, an anonymous conservative blog.
“I had done my best to dispel those (rumors),” he said, denying any involvement with the blog.
“He’s not Rocky Top Politics, I know, for sure,” Holt said.
Lotfi said when he was first hired in January 2015, it was clear that he was not allowed to have BrandFire work with any candidates challenging GOP incumbent lawmakers. Lotfi also said he understood that he couldn’t do any work related to his political consulting company during the hours he worked as Holt’s assistant.
Holt said the firing was “100 percent” politically motivated. “Everybody up there is attracted like a moth to a flame to politics. Nobody that’s working in those offices got there by happenstance,” Holt said, explaining that he and Lotfi delayed any campaign-related discussions until after their daily legislative work was done at the end of the day.
“It’s all to do with the speakers’ race. I work for Mark Green. Harwell wants to run for governor,” Lotfi said, adding that Holt frequently butts heads with Republican leaders, be it House Speaker Beth Harwell, R-Nashville, or Gov. Bill Haslam.
Harwell spokeswoman Kara Owen referred questions to Ridley.