Bush hires man accused of sexual harassment

Lloyd Brown quit the Florida Times-Union after plagiarism allegations.


Published: Friday, January 7, 2005 at 10:06 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 7, 2005 at 10:06 a.m.

TALLAHASSEE - The day after Gov. Jeb Bush fired a top official due to sexual harassment allegations, Bush's office confirmed the hiring of a controversial former journalist who resigned in November after public allegations of plagiarism and sexual harassment.

Lloyd Brown, 65, resigned his position as editorial page editor of the Florida Times-Union in Jacksonville on Nov. 2 after a newspaper review found instances of plagiarism in some of the editorials Brown had written.

The plagiarism review was sparked after a former Times-Union editorial writer, Billee Bussard, wrote a lengthy article in Folio Weekly, a Jacksonville weekly newspaper. In the Oct. 12 article, titled ``Porn, Hypocrisy, Plagiarism: The Dark Side of Jacksonville's Daily,'' Bussard wrote that Brown viewed Internet pornography in the paper's office and said he also held sexual conversations on the telephone while viewing the pornography.

Bush spokesman Jacob DiPietre said Thursday that Brown was hired Dec. 20 at an annual salary of $80,000 as a staff writer. In the position, Brown writes speeches, letters to the editor and other material for Bush.

Last week, Bush's office began investigating allegations of sexual harassment against Terry White, the head of the Department of Elder Affairs. White was fired from his job on Wednesday.

White has denied the allegations and promised to seek legal recourse.

DiPietre said Thursday that Bush's termination of White was a clear signal that Bush would not tolerate sexual harassment, and that the governor had faith in Brown's demeanor and ability.

DiPietre said the governor's office was aware of the article alleging that Brown had viewed pornography in the Times-Union office.

``We brought it up to Lloyd, he relayed that there were no merits to the allegations,'' DiPietre said. ``The fact that we take sexual harassment allegations very seriously here proves that the allegations of sexual harassment made against Lloyd have no merit.''

Efforts to contact Brown were unsuccessful Thursday.

Brown resigned his job at the Times-Union in November. In the paper's Nov. 2 story announcing his resignation, Brown said the cited examples of plagiarism were an unintended use of others' writings. Brown resigned the position, saying he could no longer ``be an effective voice'' for the paper after 42 years of employment there.

Bussard wrote that she first saw Brown view pornography on his computer in 1995, shortly after she had been hired as an editorial writer. She said she tried to joke about it with Brown in hopes that he would stop viewing the pornography in plain sight of others.

When that failed, she said she took the matter to the paper's human resources office. As a result, in late August 1998, Brown signed a letter saying that he had sought help with ``an outside counselor for his addiction to the Internet and possession of pornography.''

Brown signed the letter, but Bussard declined to do so, saying she was not satisfied he would cease inappropriate behavior.

DiPietre said Brown told the governor's staff that he had only signed the letter to end the matter and that the pornography in question was ``only in the context of inappropriate, unsolicited e-mails he had gotten and deleted.''

In the story, Bussard also claimed Brown made improper comments about the inferior intellect of women and prevented her from writing about topics she preferred. Bussard said Brown's behavior violated the company's ``no harassment policy,'' which prohibits, among other things, ``graphic . . . conduct of a sexual nature . . . or creating an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment.''

Bussard said she asked to be transferred from Brown's department in 1999 and quit the Times-Union in 2000.

Contacted at her home Thursday, Bussard said she stands by her published story and said she has received no legal threats claiming the story was inaccurate from Brown or the Times-Union.

She added that she bore ``no animosity'' toward Brown and wrote the story in Folio ``to get Lloyd help.'' She said she was frustrated that the conservative newspaper's editorial stances weren't ``practiced in the editorial page'' department.

She added Thursday that she was not surprised Bush had hired Brown, given Brown's longtime stance as a conservative commentator.

In 2000, Brown generated national attention after he wrote an editorial dismissing the era of slavery in the United States as ``merely a small and shrinking part of the human condition.'' The editorial further said the effects of slavery ``are not permanent.''

After national columnists railed against the editorial and members of the newspaper's newsroom wrote a letter protesting the editorial, the paper ran a clarification, apologizing for any impressions that the editorial was ``insensitive or demeaning.''

Contacted at the Times-Union, assistant managing editor John Burr declined comment Thursday evening.

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