Washington County Citizens for Better Government has pointed a negative political finger at Commissioner Mark Ferguson by distributing to homes and businesses colorful flyers depicting a clown and the words “EMBARRASSING!”
On the reverse side of the flyer, Ferguson is shown gripping his chin. Beside him, the words and phrases “Finger-pointing, Yelling, Verbal fisticuffs and Commissioners restrained by sheriff’s deputy” are checked in red. “Demand more from your elected county leaders: Vote NO on Commissioner Mark Ferguson,” is also printed on the flyer.
The local political action committee, which includes Jonesborough Mayor Kelly Wolfe, produced and distributed the handouts in a not-so-subtle fashion, and with full understanding of its goal.
“There has been quite a bit of discussion in the community over the last four years about the lack of decorum in the County Commission,” Wolfe said Monday. “If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it a thousand times: can’t we do something about it?
“The level of animosity has gotten to the point where if the mayor (Dan Eldridge) proposes something, a group of commissioners automatically opposes it. I’ve felt compelled for quite some time to do something. Mr. Ferguson is trying to create some sympathy for himself in light of these flyers. My sympathy is for the people in Washington County.”
Ferguson said the accusations against him were false.
“I’m not looking for sympathy,” he said. “This is a personal, slanderous attack. My opponents have launched an elaborate and expensive smear campaign against me through innuendo and an embellishment of the facts. Like most citizens, I detest dirty politics and mudslinging, so I will simply deal with the truth. Why is the mayor of a town involved? He’s on the State Republican Committee, but why is he getting involved in the county’s business?”
Ferguson said most commissioners have repeatedly attempted to have an honest dialogue and ascertain the “best avenue of advancement” when considering every resolution.
“Sadly, many of those proposals arrived with little explanation, and we’ve dealt with a continued lack of true communication,” Ferguson said. “Those on the floor of the commission who began seeking additional information and were often rebuked and labeled uncooperative and controversial.”
Sam Barnett, the group’s secretary, said the flyers’ purpose was to show how the County Commission has become dysfunctional.
“All the information on the flyer has pretty well been documented in the media,” he said. “The reason Mr. Ferguson was targeted, quite frankly? He’s made himself a leader of this group. We don’t want to go into the personality of Mr. Ferguson, and we don’t intend to distribute additional flyers. The initial thought was to create a dialogue. We want a County Commission that is functional and not embarrassing.”
Ferguson said his voting record shows he’s tried to provide the county with the best services possible when using taxpayers’ dollars.
“I’m proud of the fact the commission has financially supported our major agencies, such as emergency management, the Sheriff’s Office, the Highway Department, and our schools; all of which are excellent,” he said. “We have addressed water-source needs, dealt with catastrophic events and budgetary shortfalls, while at the same time never raising taxes in the past four years.
“If the voters allow me another term, I can promise I will continue listening to every side of an issue, maintain a careful examination of all matters and be as prudent as possible with every tax dollar.”
The PAC must file its financial disclosure with the Tennessee Registry of Election Finance by Thursday. That list will include names of contributors and amounts. PAC reports can be found at http://www.state.tn.us/tref.