Mayo Out As Election Commissioner

Tony Stinnett, Courier Co-Editor

Cannon County Election Commissioner Louise Mayo was shocked to find out she had been removed from her position by the State Election Commission during its July meeting Monday (July 17) in Nashville.

What's more, Mayo was informed of the decision one day later and not by state or local election officials, but by The Cannon Courier.

"I have no idea about (being removed)," Mayo said when contacted by The Cannon Courier regarding the decision at the state level. "I have not been contacted. No one informed me that my position was being discussed or that I was removed. This is the first I've heard of it."

All five of the seven State Election Commissioners present voted in favor of Mayo's removal. Chairman Kent Younce has appointed Corey Davenport as the Cannon County Republican member to replace Mayo.

The agenda for the State Election Commission meeting called for a discussion of a comment made by Mayo during a Cannon County Election Commission meeting regarding the termination of former Administrator of Elections (AOE) Stan Dobson. The item was listed under new business on the agenda.

During the July meeting of the Cannon County Election Commission Mayo, a Republican member, voted in favor of Dobson's termination, which passed by a 3-2 vote of the Election Commission.

During the State Election Commission Meeting Monday, a tape from the Cannon County meeting was played.

According to Blake Fontenay, Communication Director for the Tennessee Department of State, Mayo is heard discussing the the reason she voted to terminate Dobson was that (Dobson) had made a complaint to the State Election Commission (regarding) Mayo earlier this year.

As a result, the State Election Commission voted to remove Mayo for cause. The cause was retaliation in regards to Dobson's complaint filed with the State Election Commission in which Mayo was accused of creating a "hostile work environment."

"The State Election Commission believes election officials should be able to contact them without fear of retaliation," Fontenay responded. "Had Louise Mayo not stated the prior complaint filed with the State Election Commission as a reason for the termination, she would still be on the Cannon County Election Commission."

Mayo's removal has no bearing on Dobson's termination. He is still terminated.

"The decision to remove Mayo was strictly because (Dobson) had made a complaint and she voted to fire him because of it," according to Fontenay. "The commission did not get into wheather it was a valid termination. The commissioners looked at the narrow issue of someing being relatiated against for making a complaint to them. The State Election Commission does not have the authority to reinstate Mr. Dobson."

Fontenay said the Election Commission chairman would normally inform the commissioner of such a removal; however, Chairman Kent Younce had to board a plane immediately after the meeting.

According to Fontenay, Tennessee Coordinator of Elections Mark Goins attempted to call Mayo but was unsuccessful. Mayo attempted to return Goins' call Monday but he was in a meeting.

Fontenay reported Mayo would be provided written notice of her removal from the Cannon County Election Commission by the State Election Commission chairman.

Mayo said it is unfortunate that retaliation appears to be a motive for her vote because the bottom line is Dobson was terminated because of his actions.

"I'm sure I will be contacted by the State Election Commission but, as of now, I have not been notified by them that I have been removed," Mayo said. "My decision to vote in favor of the termination of Stan Dobson was not out of retaliation. It's unfortunate I did not know I was being discussed at this meeting. I also wish I would have had an opportunity to speak on my behalf. Sometimes things can be taken out of context."

Democrat Commissioner Sue Patrick said Mayo's removal is "disappointing." She also was unaware of Mayo's situation prior to being contacted by The Cannon Courier Tuesday morning.

"I really don't know anything about (Mayo being removed)," Patrick said. "There were many reasons for Stan Dobson's termination but we didn't vote to terminate Stan Dobson because of relatiation."

Mayo voted with Democrat Commissioners Patrick and Jackie Gannon not only to terminate Dobson, but also to reinstate polling places on Short Mountain and at Gassaway after the Commissioners had originally voted to close them. In both instances the motion carried 3-2 with Mayo voting with the Democrats.

Mayo's vote regarding the Short Mountain and Gassaway polling places resulted in Dobson and Republican Commissioner Matt Studd contacting Sen. Mae Beavers to ask for Mayo's removal because she was creating a hostile work environment.

Mary Lynn Bush is serving as the interim AOE through the November election before a full-time AOE is hired.