Disgraced Jacksonville Editor Gets Sweet Reception From Gov. Jeb Bush

Craig Mrusek/Folio Weekly

Lloyd Brown landed a government job not long after resigning from the Florida Times-Union.

Folio Weekly | January 13, 2005
It’s hard to decide where the sleaze begins and ends on this one.

Last Friday, four New York Times affiliate papers in Florida published a story about the cushy new job landed by former Florida Times-Union editorial page editor Lloyd Brown. The disgraced right-wing mouthpiece was hired by Gov. Jeb Bush on Dec. 20 to serve as Bush’s speechwriter and letter-to-the-editor writer. For his troubles, Brown is collecting $80,000 a year from Florida taxpayers. Those who’ve followed Brown’s career trajectory in recent months know that his perch in Bush’s office is at best undeserved. Brown was forced to resign from the T-U in November, after a committee of senior staffers confirmed that he’d lifted material for editorials verbatim from several publications without attribution. The plagiarism investigation stemmed from an Oct. 12 Folio Weekly cover story by former T-U editorial page employee Billee Bussard, who documented numerous instances in which Brown stole entire paragraphs from conservative publications and passed the ideas off as his own. (See story.) The T-U, which at the time was preparing to "expose" Edward Waters College for plagiarism, was forced to publicly respond to the Folio Weekly article. When the evidence against Brown proved irrefutable, the paper had no choice but to get rid of him. But plagiarism was only one component of the Folio Weekly story. Indeed, Bussard’s exposé detailed what some might consider a far worse offense: Brown’s workplace porn obsession. According to Bussard, in the mid-’90s her then-boss grew increasingly fixated with Internet pornography, viewing sexually explicit photographs while using the T-U’s communal Internet link. His prurient exploration was often conducted in plain view of coworkers and occasionally included phone calls of a sexual nature. Bussard didn’t just toss out these accusations. She backed them up with extensive documentation, including her own work log, her letters of complaint to T-U management and its sole written response. It is this last document that remains the most damning, an August 1998 letter signed by Brown in which he acknowledges his "addiction to the Internet and possession of pornography." Bussard, whose husband was close friends with Brown for many years, is no knee-jerk reactionary. She initially tried to be a good sport about Brown’s inappropriate behavior, gently suggesting he keep his personal habits hidden. But as the months wore on, she says, his behavior toward women — particularly her, the sole female in the department — grew increasingly hostile. Bussard says Brown demeaned women’s intelligence and excluded her from important staff meetings. Bussard ultimately decided she had no choice but to alert upper management. As it turned out, this had little impact. The T-U essentially gave Brown a pass on his behavior, despite his signed admission and despite a company policy that prohibits "conduct of a sexual nature ... or creating an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment." Instead, Bussard herself was forced to leave her plum editorial page job, moving to an entry-level position in the T-U’s special sections department. She left the paper for good in June 2000. The T-U chose to ignore this part of Bussard’s exposé. In an interview with Editor & Publisher magazine shortly after Folio Weekly’s story appeared, Publisher Carl Cannon said that although the paper would investigate the plagiarism allegations, it had no intention of examining Bussard’s hostile workplace claims. Cannon dubbed it "a human resources issue that had been settled to the satisfaction of both parties more than five years ago." Though false (Bussard was never "satisfied" by the company’s response), Cannon’s position at least makes business sense. Surely he had no interest in probing Brown’s porn habit — or any attendant liability the paper might have in the matter. What doesn’t make sense is Gov. Jeb Bush’s decision to buy this pile of dirty laundry. In fact, just two days before the Times story appeared, Bush fired the head of the state Department of Elder Affairs over allegations of sexual harassment. When asked about the governor’s apparent disconnect on the issue, Bush spokesman Jacob DiPietre said that Bush was familiar with the Folio Weekly story, but considered it baseless. "We brought it up to Lloyd, he relayed that there were no merits to the allegations," DiPietre told the Times. "The fact that we take sexual harassment allegations very seriously here proves that the allegations of sexual harassment made against Lloyd have no merit." DiPietre added that Brown dismissed his 1998 admission as something he did "only in the context of inappropriate, unsolicited e-mails he had gotten and deleted." That’s a flat-out lie, one that contradicts the very content of Brown’s signed statement. The governor may be willing to forgive Brown’s history, however, in light of his cozy relationship with powerful Jacksonville Republicans who consider Brown a friend — not least Bush’s fellow Jaguars booster, T-U publisher Carl Cannon. As we said, the sleaze factor on this story is all-encompassing. Just don’t be surprised if you don’t read about it in the local paper. They’ve got to save room for that daily Bible quote.

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