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E-mail ruling draws reaction

Friday, October 29, 2010

Reacting to their day in court, the candidates who want to represent Marshall County in the state Senate say Judge Robert Holloway made decisions in their favor and that the Maury County Chancery Court case isn't over.

"The court found that I had no knowledge of this e-mail," Columbia Councilwoman Debbie Matthews, the Democratic candidate challenging Sen. Bill Ketron (R-Murfreesboro), said late Tuesday after reviewing Judge Holloway's ruling that - in another aspect of Ketron's pleadings - her campaign manager could be tried for opening a free e-mail account and using Ketron's name.

Ketron sued Matthews over several issues and won an extension of Holloway's restraining order prohibiting Matthews' campaign from sending e-mails from BillKetron@gmail.com.

But the address had been deleted, Matthews Campaign Manager Chris Atkins testified a week ago in Columbia where he repeated his assertion that the e-mails were his doing.

"The e-mail address can't be used to create a false impression," Ketron said. "By the court allowing the injunction to remain in place, that proves that this is not a frivolous lawsuit as my opponent says... or that it was to distract from other issues."

Once opened, the e-mail accuses Ketron of misusing expense account money, a point Ketron disputed on the witness stand, saying laundry, meals and other costs incurred are legitimate expenses for a legislator. Holloway wrote that someone opening the e-mail could not mistake it as from Ketron.

Ketron acknowledged that Matthews' campaign was identified on the first page, and it was clear that contributions were solicited by e-mail for Matthews.

Testimony on Oct. 22 became specific on what Matthews knew and when she knew about the e-mail. While her staff meetings were to air campaign tactics, she said she didn't know what Atkins had done.

"Even though I don't agree with it," Ketron said on that point, "I have to understand she was under oath and she didn't know about it until I told her" during a debate at Columbia State Community College.

During the telephone interview with Matthews Tuesday, the Columbia councilwoman said, "This is all about politics."

Her accusation that Ketron was paid $65,000 for expenses to work in an $18,000-per-year position has been a chief attraction to her campaign.

And it was the message of the e-mail with a subject line asking the "$65,000 question."

Matthews contends Ketron waited until just before early voting started to file a complaint that he threatened on Sept. 29 during the Columbia debate.

"You don't say something is causing you imminent trouble and then sit on it for 18 days," Matthews said. "It's all political.

"He's taken the conversation (during the political campaign) away from the per diem and the problems in this district, such as his job performance, to talk about everything but" issues of importance to voters, Matthews said.

When first asked for his reaction to the court's ruling, Ketron said, "I hate that it came to this; however, I had to protect the integrity of my name."