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Elam responds to county controversy
Jul 21, 2006 12:00 am
Hoping to squelch a controversy which erupted in Wilson County government Thursday, mayoral candidate Linda Elam released a notice to all county employees on her reason for seeking their names and home addresses as well as questioning the reaction.
In a letter posted Friday "for all county employees to see," Mt. Juliet Mayor Linda Elam detailed the account of her campaign manager's request for a list of home addresses. In the letter, she explained she wanted the addresses to send a letter telling government employees about her candidacy and maintained her campaign manager – Matthew B. Chapman of Mt. Juliet – stated the "campaign was NOT interested in receiving addresses of law enforcement personnel."
"Furthermore, he stated that the intent for getting the addresses of county employees – minus law enforcement personnel – was so that a letter of informational piece could be sent to them," said her letter, a copy of which was provided to The Lebanon Democrat. "He did not disclose the contents of the letter because he did not feel it was important to do so."
However, Wilson County Mayor Mike Jennings disputed that statement Friday, saying Chapman revealed no reasoning for the addresses in a phone conversation with him Thursday.
"I said 'The law does not require you to tell me, but it would be nice to tell me to put a lot of employees at ease," Jennings said recounting his conversation with Chapman. "And his response was 'I can't tell you what the request was for.'"
The lack of a reason for employees' names and addresses ignited a controversy in county government Thursday as sheriff's deputies were informed their names and addresses would be released to Chapman. Jennings said he and his staff fielded calls Thursday from angry and upset county employees about the release of their home addresses without an explanation.
Elam noted a similar request issued June 15 – the same time as the Wilson County request – to the cities of Mt. Juliet and Lebanon did not illicit such a reaction. A request for Watertown employees' information was not made.
"During the monthlong delay, similar employee information was received by my campaign from the cities of Lebanon and Mt. Juliet with no concern (being) raised or expressed," her letter said.
However, Elam pointed to the "lack of strong leadership" from the county mayor's office as a reason for the reaction of certain employees.
"Yesterday rumors began circulating that hinted of some sinister plot of the part of my campaign manager to get addresses of county law enforcement employees so that he could do harm with that information," the Mt. Juliet mayor's letter said. "Nothing could be further from the truth. … Mr. Dedman has allowed a cloud of suspicion and conspiracy to foster whenever simple requests are made by Wilson County citizens who seek public information …"
Elam argues requests for public information should be issued in a "timely manner without threat or suspicion." Elam is running against Dedman for the county mayoral post in the Aug. 3 General Election.
Dedman, however, said he has no authority over releasing the names and addresses of county employees.
"I don't have control over that," he said. "I don't know who works for county. We don't do payroll. … The county mayor doesn't have the authority to keep all the records."
The county mayor also noted he didn't know of the records request and ensuing controversy until Thursday night.
"I found about it last night," he said Friday afternoon. "I got a call at home. I heard they were trying to get all sheriff and police department employees and school board and county employees."
But Elam was quick to point out while she has names and addresses of Lebanon and Mt. Juliet's employees, the county names and addresses are still elusive. As of Friday, she still hadn't received the records.
"The professional manner in which my campaign's public information request was handled by the cities of Lebanon and Mt. Juliet should serve as the example for Mr. Dedman," her letter said.
Jennings said the reason her request wasn't processed more quickly was because he was out of town when the original was delivered. Dedman added her request was met Friday, because the person in the county finance department who deals with payroll and addresses was out of the office.
The county mayor also noted he was "disappointed" in Elam's response to the uproar along with her finger pointing.
"She's been throwing mud at me, and I am man enough to take it … I'm really disappointed. because I didn't think she was that type of person," he said Friday.
Night News Editor J.K. Devine can be reached at 444-3952 ext. 46 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.