DA's office employee suspended over campaign website registration

By Hugh G. Willett knoxnews.com

A district attorney general's office employee accused by Roane County election officials of helping create a campaign website for a Roane County road supervisor candidate has been suspended for two days without pay.

Members of the election commission had complained to state election officials that administrative assistant Angie Vittatoe's registration of a campaign website for the county road supervisor, former state Rep. Dennis Ferguson, was a violation of the state's "Little Hatch Act," which prohibits state employees from participating in partisan elections.

"Not only is it two days suspension without pay, this will probably result in her having to work an additional month at the end of her state employment in order to reach fully vested retirement," 9th District Attorney General Russell Johnson wrote to Drew Rawlins, executive director of the state Bureau of Election Ethics and Campaign Finance.

Johnson also wrote that after review of the relevant legal statutes he does not believe there was a violation of the "Little Hatch Act."

"Merely going through the process of acquiring a domain name for a candidate does not constitute campaign advertising," he said.

Johnson described Vittatoe's actions as "a lapse in judgment," and said he was accepting responsibility. Johnson's letter also described other allegations of election misconduct that often come before his office, including technical campaign violations such as failing to put the "Paid For By" disclosure on signs.

"You can imagine the bottleneck that would be created by having to prosecute every single violation of law on this issue alone," he wrote.

With his letter, Johnson enclosed copies of two affidavits delivered by supporters of Ferguson who said they were responsible for creating the website.