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Jul 28, 2004 12:00 am
The very public rift between Rep. Susan Lynn and Sen. Mae Beavers has spilled over into the halls of the state Legislature, with a secretary in Lynn's office fired for forwarding a sensitive e-mail to Beavers, a breach of House of Representatives policy.
Records in the State House of Representatives Personnel Office show former state employee Judith C. Brown, a Murfreesboro resident, was fired June 28 for forwarding an e-mail belonging to State Rep. Glen Casada.
Documents in Brown's file obtained by The Lebanon Democrat under the state's Public Records Law include copies of a June 20 e-mail sent by Lynn to Casada. The Lynn e-mail appears to seek consolation and advice from Casada over the rift with Beavers and a statement sent by the senator to Republican leaders in Wilson County.
The Beavers letter in question began the public portion of the Lynn-Beavers feud, with Beavers accusing Lynn and her supporters of publicly stating Lynn would run for Beavers' seat in 2006. Beavers has been battling breast cancer. Lynn has denied the accusation.
In the letter, Beavers announced her intentions to defend her Senate seat in 2006. The letter was the subject of a news story in The Democrat on June 22.
In the e-mail to Casada, Lynn attaches a copy of Beavers' original letter, calling it "outrageous".
The e-mail also points to a possible source of the original conflict from Lynn's perspective, a feeling on Beavers' part that Lynn should have made amends with primary opponent Bobby Joslin after the bitter 2002 57th District GOP primary.
"I am sure it will only get worse toward me as the election draws nearer," Lynn wrote to Casada. "However, I have taken the abuse for two years now what's six more weeks? …I was happy to hear that her (Beavers') voice sounded very strong and full of energy. I would never wish her ill. I just want her to leave me alone and forget my very name."
State House Human Resources Director Connie T. Frederick informs Brown in a June 28 letter that her actions violated House policies on confidentiality within legislative offices.
"The policies of the House of Representatives require that information concerning the business in a legislative office will not be shared outside that office, with other members of the Legislature, other staff or the public," Frederick stated.
Frederick's letter also addresses the e-mail, noting it belonged to Casada though written by Lynn.
Casada said he confronted Brown and that she "confessed" the e-mail was forwarded to Beavers. Casada said House members and employees involved in the situation could only tell by the computer records that an e-mail was forwarded but not where it was sent.
It is also unclear whether each representatives' personal or state e-mail accounts were used. Lynn's e-mail identity in the printed e-mails in Brown's file read "Friends of Susan Lynn." Casada's simply uses his name.
"Things being forwarded is just not a good way to do business," Casada said. "Judi (Brown) confessed to me personally that she sent it to Sen. Mae Beavers. To my knowledge it was just one e-mail."
When contacted at her Murfreesboro home, Brown admitted she forwarded the e-mail to Beavers and that it was done on her own initiative, not Beavers'.
Brown, a longtime GOP volunteer, said "conversations that I heard from Susan Lynn" in the office Lynn shared with Casada and Rep. Donna Rowland led Brown to believe Lynn was planning to run for Beavers' senate seat.
"It made me angry that she would take advantage of Sen. Beavers' illness to advance her own position," Brown told The Democrat. "I did it on my own. … I guess I was wrong to do it. I was just angry."
The divide between Wilson County's two foremost Republican elected officials went public with Beavers' letter to her supporters, but the Lynn/Casada e-mail in Brown's file and statements from Beavers indicate the activity had been ongoing for some time.
The latest public act came with Beavers endorsing Lynn's opponent, Mt. Juliet businessman Tom Wood, last week in a direct mail piece.
Beavers said the Lynn e-mail to Casada was one in a series of events where the senator said she learned Lynn was "trying to destroy me."
"There is not one shred of truth in that whole e-mail," Beavers said, adding later, "It is full of lies and malicious slander."
Beavers said the issue over Joslin was not an attempt to get Lynn to apologize for the bitter 2002 primary but general political advice.
"I never told her to apologize to Bobby Joslin," Beavers said. "I told her she should go to each of her opponents and try to get their support. …His name never came up."
Finally, Beavers questioned Brown's firing, saying the e-mail was public record since it was on a state computer.
When asked if Brown did the right thing in forwarding her the e-mail, Beavers said, "Of course. In my eyes, yes."
"I want to know if people are saying bad things about me," Beavers added. "It's a state e-mail. … I think it was very unfair what happened to her (Brown). I was just acquainted with Judi. I would assume that anything I write on state e-mail could be public."
Reached Tuesday, Lynn continued to deny that she was seeking Beavers' senate seat and maintained her characterization of the Joslin conversation in the e-mail was accurate.
Lynn also furnished the newspaper with a copy of a letter sent to House Speaker Jimmy Naifeh over the Brown firing which states a further investigation of Brown's activities while in state employ is warranted due to "new allegations."
"I have never considered running in the 17th District," Lynn said in a written statement issued later in the day. "For Ms. Brown to say that she has ever heard me say such a thing is just another attempt by her to justify her… actions."
Other GOP leaders at both the state level and in Wilson County said they were also made familiar with the Lynn e-mail through conversations with Beavers.
West Wilson Republican President Mark Cygler said Beavers read him a portion of an e-mail from Susan Lynn over the telephone in a conversation in the last month.
Cygler said Beavers read him the portion where Lynn writes, "I just want her to leave me alone and forget my very name."
"Mae wanted to prove to me Susan was doing something," Cygler said. "That's the gist of it that I got, as evidence of what Susan was doing against her."
State Rep. Paul Stanley, a two-term Republican representing the 96th District, said he too had a conversation with Beavers where they discussed the Lynn/Casada e-mail.
Stanley said the entire issue has been "blown way out of proportion" adding that he confronted Beavers about Brown losing her job.
"My issue that I inquired about with Sen. Beavers was that over this misunderstanding with Rep. Lynn was she (Beavers) distressed that an employee lost her job," Stanley said.
"I'm a little bewildered as to why the senator in that district is opposing the representative. Susan Lynn has done a wonderful job for Wilson County."
It is unclear where the issue of the e-mail or the brewing primary will lead for Wilson County's leading Republicans.
Brown said she is contemplating civil action against Lynn for creating a "hostile work environment."
In her written statement, Lynn said she was unaware of any legal action. Lynn will face Wood at the polls Aug. 5.
"I know of no pending litigation," Lynn stated. "Ms. Brown was caught by Rep. Casada in a very serious indiscretion. The General Assembly takes what she did very seriously."
Neither Rowland nor House Minority Leader Tre' Hargett would comment for this story, terming the issue a "personnel matter."
Managing Editor Clint Brewer can be reached at 444-3952 ext. 13 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.