11/27/2014 01:11 EST | Updated 11/27/2014 02:59 EST

Wildrose Staffer Sends Smashed Coffee Mug Picture To MLA Kerry Towle

For some it might just be a smashed coffee mug, but for MLA Kerry Towle it's a sign of hurtful disrespect.

Towle, the former Wildrose seniors critic and MLA for Innisfail-Sylvan Lake, crossed the floor to join the Progressive Conservative government earlier this week. And while she expected hurt feelings, she didn't expect the kind of retaliation she recieved.

On Tuesday, a Wilrose staffer took one of Towle's official MLA mugs, left behind in the Wildrose kitchen, and smashed it before emailing her the picture.

Former Wildrose MLA Joe Anglin posted the photo on Twitter. “WRP staff break @KerryTowle cup and send her a pic. Cost of cup $3.00. WRP staff classless,” he wrote.

“I started crying. I left. I was devastated. I phoned my husband and said, ‘I can’t do this.’ I knew there would be anger and hurt but that was bullying and intimidation,” Towle told the Calgary Sun of her reaction to the email.

Wildrose leader Danielle Smith, who has been dealing with internal party struggles after both Towle and Little Bow MLA Ian Donovan defected to the PCs this week, told CBC News the staffer who sent the photo has been dealt with.

“My chief of staff talked to him and let him know that it was completely unacceptable.

"I don't know how (the cup) got smashed, but I know it was incredibly inappropriate to send her the picture. I understand that the staff member feels very regretful," she said, adding the employee still has a job.

Towle's departure has been a bitter blow for Smith and the Wildrose party.

She had been a high-profile fighter within the party, working to fix problems in seniors care. She was regarded as a rising star and one of Smith's key lieutenants.

NDP finance critic Brian Mason, a former party leader and longtime legislature member, said Tuesday that Towle's decision was a breathtaking defection for someone so close to a leader.

"It was the greatest act of personal betrayal that I have seen in my 25 years of elected office," said Mason.

Towle told the Canadian Press she left the Wildrose after becoming disenfranchised with the route they were taking.

"We are a party of free votes, however our membership was deciding how I as an MLA was expected to vote, and that caused me great conflict," she said.

"My constituents were coming to me asking me to give this government and Mr. Prentice a chance, and felt I could do more with them than against them — and I heard that message."

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