The Lee Company sent a cease-and-desist letter to the gubernatorial campaign of Rep. Diane Black (R-TN-06) on Friday, calling for the removal of information alleging the company wrongfully fired a veteran who once worked there, The Tennessee Journal’s On the Hill reported.
GOP gubernatorial candidate Bill Lee is the owner and former CEO of the Lee Company, a leading plumbing/HVAC business in Middle Tennessee.
The Lee Company said Black’s campaign was “deliberately misrepresenting” the facts surrounding the legal dispute with an Army National Guard member who claimed wrongful termination in a federal lawsuit, The Journal quoted The Tennessean as saying.
“We have learned that the Diane Black for Governor campaign is deliberately misrepresenting actions taken by Lee Company that relate to a former employee who served as a Tennessee National Guardsman,” according to the letter by Lee Co. general counsel Jason Hale. “You have also misrepresented our company’s attitude toward and treatment of veterans in these communications.”
A Black campaign website removed material about the case and instead linked to a Tennessean article about the lawsuit, The Journal said.
Black spokesman Chris Hartline said the campaign received a “vague letter that does not dispute any specific allegations.”
“We are committed to the truth and await further clarification about what they believe is incorrect in the Tennessean’s story,” Hartline said.
In the 2009 lawsuit, William O. Roark III alleged he was wrongfully terminated by the company on at least two occasions after he was deployed, The Journal said. Lee Co. denied wrongdoing, and a judge dismissed the claims from the earlier of the two incidents. The company said Roark was laid off in the recession. The two sides settled the case, which is not an admission of guilt.
The Star asked the Lee campaign to offer a response on the Lee Company cease-and-desist letter for this article, but the campaign declined comment.
Lee, Black, and Knoxville businessman Randy Boyd are running neck and neck in the hard fought Republican gubernatorial primary election that will be held this coming Thursday on August 2. Former Speaker of the Tennessee House Beth Harwell (R-Nashville) is the fourth candidate vying for the GOP nomination.
Early voting ends today.
You can read the cease-and-desist letter here: