Former campaign aide chastises ex-Chattanooga mayoral candidate using his social media


A former campaign staffer took over the campaign social media account of former Chattanooga mayoral candidate Monty Bruell, using it to accuse Bruell of stiffening her and other staff for the work done during its 2021 campaign.

Alix Thornhill, 23, a student at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, worked as Bruell’s communications director from September 2020 until the end of her campaign after the general election for mayor on March 2. During that time, she said, she went from small assignments to a full-time job, doing everything from social media and press releases to coordinating lists of donors, volunteers and supporters for the candidate from two to 12 hours per day.

According to Thornhill, Bruell in October “agreed to a rate of $ 25 an hour, and he said” keep your work schedules and submit them to me when the campaign is over. “”

Thornhill, who now works for Nathaniel Doss ‘congressional campaign and is Tennesee College Democrats’ vice president, said she was not given a dime for the work.

“Like I almost had a nervous breakdown at some point in the campaign because I hadn’t done laundry for three or four months, and I didn’t have time because they were – everyone was asking me to do things, ”she said.

In January, Thornhill said, she found a break when Bruell gave her a one-time payment in a $ 500 envelope.

“He said verbatim, ‘This is a drop in the bucket of what I owe you,'” she said. “So I took that as a good sign that he was going to pay me.”

Bruell told The Times Free Press that he paid Thornhill the $ 500 in January, which was not reported in any of his subsequent campaign financial disclosures.

“I paid her without any discussion, out of the goodness of my heart and in recognition of her work,” Bruell said of the one-time cash payment.

When asked if that meant he was paying campaign staff members with personal funds, Bruell later said in a text message that it was not a payment.

“It was a personal gift and a recognition of his efforts and dedication,” he said.

No other staff member received such a gift, according to Bruell.

“This $ 500 giveaway is titled ‘No Good Deed Goes Unpunished’,” he added.

Thornhill took over Bruell’s campaign account on Facebook last week, using the administrative access she still had.

Thornhill said she deleted him and other admins so they could not take control of the account, and then deleted his “intellectual property” including all posts shared during the election, then began to criticize Bruell on the account.

She changed the cover photo of the page to read “Monty Bruell Proudly Steals From Students” and wrote “Professional Salary Thief” in the information section of the page.

“The more I hear about Monty Bruell, the less I respect him,” Thornhill said of the takeover. “I had heard more from him, maybe not paying someone else. And it just drove me crazy.”

Bruell said Monday he was shocked by complaints from Thornhill, whom he considered a friend before the social media takeover.

But Thornhill wasn’t the only staff member Bruell allegedly bypassed.

The Times Free Press examined a contract for another worker that provided for payments of $ 10,500 during the campaign. She said she was fired a month earlier by Bruell, and financial information from her contract and campaign indicates she may have missed as much as $ 3,000.

When asked about the claim, Bruell admitted Monday that he had terminated the employee’s contract a month earlier after the employee said she was “unhappy” to work for him. According to Bruell, he decided “unilaterally” to end his contract a month earlier, causing him to lose about $ 1,500 in work.

Depending on the contract, the agreement “may be terminated by mutual agreement or by either party upon 30 days written notice”.

Thornhill and Bruell met in May to discuss compensation, at which point Bruell told her he didn’t have the money to pay her. During this meeting, she said, he tried to offer her a job in the city, where he thought he would be hired soon.

Bruell said on Monday he offered to “put a good word” on her, as he would with any friend.

A spokesman for Mayor Tim Kelly’s administration said Monday that Bruell was not being considered for any post in the city, adding that officials were “grateful” to Bruell for his work on the transition team, but “there are currently no plans to serve him in any capacity.

Jeremy Grabiner, Bruell’s deputy campaign manager, said he works knowing it will be volunteer work unless the campaign now only raises enough money to cover other expenses.

“He offered me to be deputy campaign manager, and I said, ‘Well, can you afford to pay me?’ and Monty said at the time that he couldn’t afford to pay me and other staff, ”Grabiner said, noting that the relatively poorly funded campaign had to pay for ads and other expenses. campaign before any staff can be paid.

Grabiner said Bruell regularly bought meals for staff and expressed appreciation for their work, but they all knew it was voluntary.

“It seemed to me at the time that we all agreed that the most important thing was the goal of winning the campaign,” Grabiner said. “I don’t think Monty could ever, ever swindle anyone or not do someone good.”

Another former staff member, Director of Outreach Kelsey McBride, contacted the Times Free Press on Monday after speaking to Bruell. She corroborated Grabiner’s claims. McBride said she served strictly on a voluntary basis and that to her knowledge the rest of the staff did too.

Regarding the Facebook cover photo, Bruell said he was considering legal action over Thornhill’s actions.

“My page has been hacked. I am exploring legal remedies,” he wrote in a comment on the post.

But on Monday, he said that even though he had considered his legal options, he had taken no action because “it is the nuclear option”.

Thornhill said the alleged actions of Bruell – who advocated for higher wages and other work-friendly policies during his campaign – show he intended to take advantage of young people and / or female staff , and that any denial of it is hypocrisy in the Democratic Party.

“I feel like people want to be a Democrat who speaks out against evil, but only when it comes to Republicans. When it comes to real Democrats – because obviously it’s not like you suddenly become a Republican, you’re a mean person, you’re a Democrat and you’re a great person, isn’t it – evil is on both sides because humanity is a specter, ”Thornhill said. “It’s all about your intentions, and he had absolutely bad intentions. But some people just can’t see that in the Democratic Party.”

Bruell said he treats all his staff equally, citing Grabiner, and denied that there was any sexist or ageist intent.

Contact Sarah Grace Taylor at [email protected] or 423-757-6416. Follow her on Twitter @_sarahgtaylor.

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