GOP Infighting Erupts Within Local Election Commission

KEVIN HALPERN, Courier Co-Editor

State Senator Mae Beavers, Cannon County Election Commissioner Matt Studd and Cannon County Administrator of Elections Stan Dobson recently asked the Tennessee Election Commission to remove Cannon County Election Commisioner Louise Mayo from the local board.

The charge is that Mayo has aligned herself too closely with Democratic Party members of the five-member local commission. Mayo, along with Studd and Chairman Lindbergh Dennis, are Republican members. Democratic Party members are Sue Patrick and Jackie Gannon.

County Election Commissioners are appointed by the State Election Commission upon the recommendation of the local representative (in Cannon County's case either Senator Beavers or Rep. Mark Pody) and the local political parties. The Election Commissioners, in turn, appoint the local Administrator of Elections.

Senator Beavers appointed the Republican members of the local commission after the GOP took control of the Tennessee General Assembly in 2009. Rep. Pody was not in office at that time.

State Election Commissioner Kent Younce received complaints about Mayo from Dobson, Studd and Senator Beavers and brought them before the state commission at its April 9 meeting in Nashville, according to the minutes.

Both Senator Beavers and Dobson believe the working conditions have become a hostile environment and they would like Commissioner Mayo to be replaced.

Studd sent a letter supporting the concerns of Dobson and Senator Beavers. Commissioner Younce asked fellow State Election Commission members for suggestions on how to handle the complaint.

After a brief discussion, a motion was made, seconded and unanimously approved to send a letter from the State Election Commission to the Administrator of Elections for Cannon County Election Commission, with a carbon sent to Senator Beavers, advising the Administrator if he believes the work environement is a hostile environment he should make a complaint with his local human resources office.

Dobson said Wednesday that Cannon County does not have a human resources office. He said he has tried to reach Mike Corley, the attorney forthe County, to discuss the situation, but has not been able to contact him. Dobson also said he is considering taking the matter up with Tennessee Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, as well as other options.

In an e-mail to Younce on April 2, Dobson wrote, "At our last several meetings Mrs. Mayo has been following in the footsteps of the Democratic members of the Election Commission. She is voting with these members on everything they are wanting or doing. She has even backed one of them that has personally called me a liar at several meetings with the public being present.

"I feel that with the lack of support from Mrs. Mayo that this will hurt our county in many ways. Because of this it has created a hostile work environment. I would like to see Mrs. Mayo removed from the Cannon County Election Commission and have Mae Beavers nominate someone new. Election Commissioner Matt Studd will verify this information. If you need any further information please call me at 615-563-5650."

Commissioner Studd sent a letter to Younce, dated April 3:

"I am requesting your assistance in dealing with a concern over the Cannon County Election Commission. At recent meetings Louise Mayo, who is a Republican appointed member, has cause(d) considerable concern with her conduct, statements and votes at several of our recent meetings. I provide the following examples that speak to the concerns;

"1.) At our Nov. 2011 meeting, our Commission discussed consolidating some of our polling places that had very low voter volume and some of which were not in their proper precinct boundaries and records did not contain appropiate authorization from the previous or current State Election Coordinator.

"At this meeting, the number of impacted voters, numbers of votes cast in those affected polling locations, maps with boundary lines were reviewed, discussed and evaluated. The motion to consolidate was made, seconded and approved unanimously.

"Two months later, after a considerable (amount) of time, resources and energy had been spent by AOE Stan Dobson and Deputy Dorinda Mankin to update files, records and voter card information, Louise Mayo joined with the two Democrat Commissioners and switched her position when the matter was revisited in January.

"The reason she (Mayo) cited during the meeting was that she was tired of all the calls she had received from the Short Mountain residents opposed to the consolidation. Flip flop for wrong motives and reasons.

"2.) At the February meeting, when discussing the additional work load, and extra hours that Deputy Mankin was required to work in cleaning up the mess of polling location reversal, Jackie Gannon, a long standing Democrat Commission Member stated that AOE Stan Dobson did not need to work his Deputy those additional hours because Louise Mayo had offered to work at the office for little or no pay, but had been turned down. How this statement, if true (was not denied by Louise Mayo) would suggest that she and Jackie Gannon had discussed this allegation, likely violating the Open Records Act,

"3.) At our March meeting, Louise Mayo would not support a motion I had made, regarding a previous unanimous(ly) approved budget amendment request to cover the additonal work hours of Deputy Mankin. In fact she voted again with the Democrats as this subject went back and forth.

"I believe Commissioner Mayo should be questioned regarding her votes and positions I have described, Further, I believe her answers to such questions would confirm the need to replace her on our Cannon County Election Commission."

The next meeting of the Cannon County Election Commission is scheduled for Monday,  June 11.

Ironically, while it is a fellow Republican, Mayo, who Dobson, Studd and Beavers have claimed has created a hostile work environment, Election Commission meetings during the past year have featured several heated and contentious exchanges between Dobson and Democrat Patrick, and Dobson has also accused Patrick of creating a hostile environment within the Election Commission and Election Office.