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Government Officials Saying Bad Things

Lawmakers and a city attorney let the public know what they really think.

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"Asshole." "Kiss my butt." "I could care less." "Don't flatter yourself."

These are comments lawmakers and a government attorney recently said or wrote directly to taxpayers.

• Tennessee state Sen. Todd Gardenhire, who infamously called a Tennessee taxpayer an "asshole" last year during the Insure Tennessee debate, had terse words last week for Memphian Steve Levine.

Sen. Todd Gardenshire
  • Sen. Todd Gardenshire

During a debate on Gardenhire's bill that would prohibit the use of state gas tax funds for bike lanes, a fellow lawmaker told Gardenhire that he'd received numerous emails about the bill. Gardenhire joked that that was "what the delete button" was for.

Levine wrote Gardenhire an email calling his sentiment "glib" and a "slap in the face" to his constituents. Gardenhire responded, noting "The day you start receiving 350 to 400 emails a day, call me so I can sit and watch you read every one of them." Levine wrote him back to say "I don't feel sorry for you" because responding to constituents is "part of the job" and that he was glad that his email somehow rose above the others.

"Don't flatter yourself," Gardenhire wrote from his official state email address. "Not only will I delete this email after I send it, but you will be blocked. You made my day."

Gardenhire had not responded for comment by press time.

"It was absolutely an inappropriate response coming from an elected official," Levine said. "My opinion and hope is that someone in a public service position would accept that others will disagree and that correspondence is part of the job."

• Memphis City Council attorney Allan Wade apparently did not mince words with a Memphis taxpayer three weeks ago, as the Greensward-Memphis Zoo parking debate raged at Memphis City Hall.

Kathy Ake wrote a post on Nextdoor titled "me and Allan Wade" in which she told Wade "you should be ashamed" for allegedly colluding with Memphis Zoo leadership. Ake confirmed the incident with the Flyer.

"He stopped, backed up and said 'Are you talking to me?'" Ake wrote. "I said yes. He looked at me and said 'You should kiss my butt.'"

Ake said she has heard nothing from city council members or Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland since the incident.

Wade would not confirm that the situation happened.

"I have no comment on any private conversations that I may or may not have had with someone 'who made a comment to me' outside of the public meeting context," Wade said in an email to the Flyer. "I hear a lot of 'comments' that cannot be repeated in polite company."

• Last week, a Mississippi state legislator told a taxpayer she should move out of the state.

According to a story from Jackson's The Clarion-Ledger, freshman Rep. Karl Oliver told a resident in an email that she and he have "different political views," and he noted that she wasn't a Mississippi native.

"I appreciate you going to the trouble to share [your opinion] with me, but quite frankly, and with all due respect, I could care less," Oliver said in an email. "I would, however, recommend that there are a rather large number of like-minded citizens in Illinois that would love to see you return."


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