Judy Tucker, executive assistant to Mayor Teresa Tomlinson, has been suspended briefly from her position because of an incident she says started out as a practical joke involving a campaign sign for mayoral candidate Colin Martin.
According to Tomlinson, Tucker, who has worked for the mayor for her entire term, had taken some time to run a personal errand Wednesday during which she “got a wild hair” and asked for one of Martin’s campaign signs.
“She was going to put it in my closet or credenza in my office so I would find it,” Tomlinson said. “It was supposed to be a practical joke.”
Tomlinson said she has not decided whether the suspension will be for one or two days or whether it will be with or without pay. “I haven’t worked out the details,” she said.
The situation came to light when Martin posted a comment on his campaign Facebook page Wednesday saying someone had called to report that Tucker was seen picking up one of his signs.
“Either we’ve had a high-level conversion or a dirty trick is afoot,” Martin wrote. “I ask my supporters to be vigilant and report any unflattering pictures or sign placements to me.”
Not long afterward, Tucker posted an apology on Martin’s comment. She explained that it was intended to be a practical joke on her boss and that she would return the sign immediately.
“I guess it wasn’t the best decision and I really should have thought that through,” Tucker wrote. “I apologize for that.” Martin responded, “Judith, thanks for clearing that up.”
Asked Thursday about the incident, Martin said he was aware of the incident, but not the suspension.
“Judy came on my Facebook page and said it was a prank against the mayor and nothing more,” Martin said. “As far as I’m concerned, it’s ‘No harm, no foul.’”
Tabitha Massey works at Abercrombie Bail Bonding, which is housed in the same building as Reeves Demolition on 10th Street. Tucker had gone to Reeves to get some used brick for a project at her house when she saw some Martin campaign signs and asked for one, Tomlinson said.
Massey said she recognized Tucker when she was leaving with the sign and emailed Tomlinson to ask why one of her employees wanted one of Martin’s signs and why she had misrepresented herself.
“Judy said she was new to town and wanted the sign for her yard,” Massey said. “I emailed Teresa to ask why she was here picking up signs on city time.”
Tomlinson told the Ledger-Enquirer that Tucker is an exempt employee, which allows her to participate in campaigning, but that she does not participate and was not serving in a campaign role when she picked up the sign.
Tomlinson said Tucker violated no city policy, but she still thought a brief suspension was warranted, which she said Tucker agreed with.
“She was devastated,” Tomlinson said. “But she is a great person and a huge asset to me. She just didn’t think it through. “I have very high standards in my office.”