Monthly Archives: May 2019

Casada to resign upon return from trip abroad

House Speaker Glen Casada (R-Franklin) checks his phone as he awaits the joint convention to hear Gov. Bill Lee’s first State of the State address in Nashville on March 4, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

House Speaker Glen Casada plans to resign upon his return from a trip to Europe.

“When I return to town on June 3rd, I will meet with Caucus leadership to determine the best date for me to resign as Speaker so that I can help facilitate a smooth transition,” Casada (R-Franklin) said in a statement.

Casada’s long-planned vacation is scheduled to begin Friday. The decision to resign from the chamber’s top leadership post follows an overwhelming vote of no confidence from the House Republican Caucus on Monday. Gov. Bill Lee had said he would call a special legislative session if Casada did not resign.

“Speaker Casada has made the right decision, and I look forward to working with the legislature to get back to conducting the people’s business and focusing on the issues that matter most to our state,” Lee said in a statement.

Senate Speaker Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge) also lauded the decision.

“Speaker Casada announcing his intent to resign is the right decision for the legislature, the Republican Party and the statem,” McNally said. “I commend him for it. Now we move forward. I am committed to working with leadership in the House to help restore the trust that has been lost in any way I can.”

Gov. Bill Lee to call special session if Casada doesn’t resign

Gov. Bill Lee speaks to reporters on March 19, 2019, about his proposal to introduce an education savings account program in Tennessee. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Gov. Bill Lee said Monday eventing that House Republicans had sent a “clear message” in their 45-24 vote to declare they had lost confidence in the leadership of Speaker Glen Casada. “I’m prepared to call a special session if the Speaker doesn’t resign,” the govenror said in a statement.

Lee had said before a special House Republican Caucus meeting that he would await the outcome of the no-confidence vote to see whether it would serve a “signal” to whether the body wanted a special session. Apparently it did.

Casada told the caucus after the vote that he planned to spend the coming months trying to regain the confidence.

UPDATE:

House Republican leaders issued a statement calling on Casada to resign and applauding Lee’s willingness to call a special session. The statement was signed by:

  • Rep. Cameron Sexton (Caucus Chairman)
  • Rep. Ron Gant (Assistant Majority Leader)
  • Rep. Matthew Hill (Deputy Speaker)
  • Rep. Chris Todd (Freshman Leader)
  • Rep. Rick Tillis (Majority Whip)
  • Rep. Paul Sherrell (Majority Floor Leader)
  • Rep. Clay Doggett (Majority Secretary)
  • Rep. Mark Cochran (Majority Treasurer)

[House Majority Leader William Lamberth had issued a statement earlier calling for the special session.]

Casada loses confidence vote, 45-24

House Majority Leader William Lamberth (R-Portland) and Republican Caucus Chairman Cameron Sexton of Crossville speak to reporters about a no-confidence vote on House Speaker Glen Casada’s leadership. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Republican House Speaker Glen Casada was dealt a stunning rebuke by his caucus on Monday in a 45-22 vote to declare the members had lost confidence in his ability to lead the chamber.

Casada, who was only elected speaker in January, had hoped to weather the storm surrounding his office following revelations he had engaged in lewd text message exchanges with his former chief of staff, and that the aide had once taken cocaine in his office and propositioned interns and lobbyists.

The meeting was closed to the media. A secret ballot determined the outcome.

Casada told members he will work to regain their confidence in the coming months, meaning he doesn’t plan to step aside.

UPDATE: State Republican Party Chairman Scott Golden is now calling for Casada to resign:

The vote of no confidence by the Republican caucus sends a clear message; it is time for the Speaker to heed the advice of the majority of his fellow legislators and step down from his position of leadership and allow someone else to begin the process of restoring the trust of all Tennesseans.

UPDATE 2: House Majority Leader William Lamberth (R-Portland) is calling for a special session to replace Casada:

After today’s vote, it is time for the Speaker to resign, and I hereby request Governor Lee call a special session by the end of June for the House to choose a new Speaker.

Censure vs. no confidence: What does it mean?

Speculation is running rampant in advance of Mondays special House Caucus meeting about what actions will be pursued against House Speaker Glen Casada amid the scandal embroiling his office.

Some see a censure vote as less damning for Casada than a vote of no confidence. But it’s unclear what the latter would accomplish given that there’s nothing in the House GOP bylaws that lays out the penalties if the motion is successful. On the other hand, here’s what the bylaws say about a censure:

DISCIPLINARY ACTION
A member can be censured with a recommendation of the majority of leadership and a
vote of 2/3 of the Caucus. A vote of censure can take any or all of the following actions

• a letter of reprimand to be kept on file for public viewing;

• denial of attendance at a caucus function or functions;

• denial of caucus funding;

• recommendation to the state party for disqualification;

• other actions may be brought with a vote of four-fifths of the membership.

One key thing to remember on a censure is that it would take the majority of the leadership to even bring the motion to a vote. Leadership is defined as the speaker, speaker pro tem, majority leader, caucus chair, assistant leader, whip, floor leader, vice chair, secretary and treasurer. A majority would mean six votes if all 10 leaders are in attendance.

We are hearing that Casada will be given an opportunity to address the members (attendance is expected to be in the 60s out of a total of 73 Republicans), after which he will be asked to leave the room so the members can discuss matters freely.

Gov. Bill Lee offers thoughts on GOP caucus meeting on Casada

Rep. Glen Casada (R-Franklin) is sworn in a as speaker of the House on Jan. 9., 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Gov. Bill Lee spoke to reporters on Monday morning about his thoughts going into the special House Republican Caucus meeting on whether members still have confidence in the leadership of Speaker Glen Casada. Lee has said he would have fired Casada if he worked in the executive branch or for his private company, but that the decision over the speaker’s fate lies with members of the House.

Q: What’s your take on Casada developments?

Lee: There’s a vote today that will be important and we’ll learn a lot about that. The legislature, it’s their decision, it’s their vote. So we’ll be watching and see what happens.

Q: What’s your hope?

Lee: My hope is that they exercise their ability to the leader, and they’ll do so to back Casada with a vote of confidence or no confidence. That’s a process that’s important. The speaker himself has said that’s important.

Q: No matter what happens, you have the ability to call for a special session. Are you willing to make that call?

Lee: that’s premature. This meeting, and what happens in this meeting, will be important. And we’ll see what happens before we start any conversations beyond that.

Q: If they do pass no confidence, will you consider a special session?

Lee: It’s something to consider, but we’ll have to wait and what they do vote on first.

Q: Have you had contact with Casada since the scandal broke.

Lee: I haven’t. I haven’t spoken with him.

Q: Rep. Carter accused him of trying to rig the Ethics Committee report. Does that push you toward saying maybe he should step down.

Lee: I don’t know what took place in those Ethics Committee meetings. Like everything that has happened in the last few weeks, we just have to watch and see how the legislature weighs what’s happened, and their decision because of it.

Q: Would that be a reason to call a special session.

I think the legislature will determine, they will signal if they want a special session to consider that sort of thing. But again, it’s premature.

Q: If you were a House member how would you vote?

Lee: That’s a hypothetical question, I will leave that up to the House of Representatives.

Q: You’ve been careful with your words the last couple of weeks –

Lee: — There’s a reason I’m being very careful. Because there’s a separation between the executive branch to the legislative branch. It’s very important and there’s a reason for that. This is a decision the House of Representatives and that branch of government needs to make. So I’m intentional in recognizing that separation of government. IT’s important that it’s set up that way and it’s important that we carry it out that way.

Today’s the day for Casada to sink or swim. Or is it?

The state House Republican Caucus meets Monday afternoon at a Nashville hotel to decided whether embattled Speaker Glen Casada still has their confidence to lead the chamber.

Casada has been furiously lobbying members not to cast him aside. One idea that’s been floated is for the caucus to vote on whether to censure the speaker rather than pass a no-confidence motion, with the former being considered less fatal to his prospects to remain speaker.

Another option is for the caucus to simply vote down the no-confidence motion.

Any outcome, however, is bound to leave the speaker in a severely weakened position.

One of Casada’s major challenges is that just about every rumor floated about him feels like it might have some credence — no matter how outlandish it sounds. That means the Franklin Republican is constantly on the defensive, trying to slap down the latest whispers.

The lastest rumor spreading around the Capitol is that Casada has allegedly promised to support a primary challenger of Rep. Terri Lynn Weaver (R-Lancaster) after she declared the speaker should step aside (and also because she earlier voted against the school voucher bill). Casada aides and House Republican Caucus Chairman Cameron Sexton of Crossville say they are unaware of any such arrangement.

Meanwhile, Republican State Executive Committee member Randy Ellis of Harriman issued a statement calling on Casada resign as speaker:

The continued drama involving Speaker Casada has quickly turned into a National embarrassment it’s time for the Speaker to step aside and allow for new leadership. This ordeal has overshadowed all the hard work and accomplishments our legislature has worked so hard for during the last session.

It is time to end this prolonged drama. For the sake of our great party and the state of Tennessee, I call for Speaker Casada to step down as Speaker of the Tennessee House of Representatives.

 

Casada denounces Carter criticism as a ‘disgrace’

House Speaker Glen Casada (R-Franklin) attends a House Education Committee meeting in Nashville on March 27, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

House Speaker Glen Casada is condemning criticism from fellow Republican Rep. Mike Carter as “a deliberate attempt to mislead and an absolute disgrace.”

Carter this week issued a lengthy statement denouncing what he called efforts by the speaker to “rig and predetermine” the findings of an advisory opinion by the House Ethics Committee to cast him in the best possible light before a GOP caucus meeting to determine whether he still has the support of his colleagues amid a text messaging scandal.

Carter forwarded the statement to the full caucus on Friday, and Casada responded with the following email:

From: Glen Casada
Date: May 17, 2019 at 5:51:16 PM EDT
Subject: RE: Statement

[Excerpt from Carter email:] “I could argue that the text messages are disqualifying. I could argue that knowing and failing to report felony criminal conduct is his presence is disqualifying. I could argue that spending $7 million to operate his office more that Speaker Beth Harwell is disqualifying but respectfully I state that attempting to pre-determine an opinion from the Ethics Committee is the final straw for me.”

Members,
The above paragraph was lifted from a letter just submitted to each and every one of you from Representative Mike Carter. I copy and paste it so you can read it and understand this as another example of absolute fiction being perpetuated as fact.

I readily admit to each of you that I sent inappropriate text messages three years ago that made inappropriate jokes about women. If you believe the handful of texts that I sent disqualify me as Speaker, then I must accept that and move on.

I have not or would never fail to report any felony conduct. This District Attorney is in the midst of concluded his investigation into emails sent by my office and I remain confident that my staff and I will be cleared of any wrongdoing very soon.

I have not spent $7 million more than Speaker Harwell on operating expenses. The Governor included $4 million for the House and $2 million for the Senate in his proposed budget because there has not been an increase in the legislative budget in quite some time. After conferring with the Senate, the amount was reduced to roughly $3 million for the House and $1.5 for the Senate. My plan is to use this money for across the board salary increases for staff. If any member would like for me to do otherwise I am happy to discuss it further.

Finally, to address the most maddening allegation made to date, I have done absolutely nothing to influence any work of the Ethics Committee. Period. To suggest so is a slap in the face to any legal staffer or committee member who actually attempted to work on the advisory opinion that I requested. The Ethics Committee is split 5-5 in a bipartisan manner and I asked for the request in earnest. If anyone would like to call me, including Representative Carter, I’m happy to discuss it further.

This letter is nothing more than a deliberate attempt to mislead and an absolute disgrace from someone that should know better. At the very least, he should have had the decency to call me first.

Respectfully,
Glen

Ethics Committee member calls for Casada to resign over effort to ‘rig and predetermine’ report

House Speaker Glen Casada (R-Franklin) presides over a floor session in Nashville on April 23, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Rep. Mike Carter of Ooltewah is the latest Republican member to call for Glen Casada to step down as speaker following a text message scandal.

Andy Sher of the Chattanooga Times Free Press reports Carter refused to sign a draft of an advisory opinion.

“After reviewing the facts as presented I advised that the facts did not appear to be in line with the documents existing in the public realm,” Carter said in a statement.

“If the requestor is willing to rig and predetermine an outcome of the ethics committee this week he is in my opinion he is not fit to hold the trust of his office or the state of Tennessee.”

Here is the full statement from Carter:

In my prior statement I felt that no decision be made on the future of Glen Casada until all the facts were known and the investigation was completed. The facts are not fully known and my understanding is the investigation is in its infancy. However, with great reluctance and a heavy heart, I now feel moved to call for the resignation of Speaker Casada based on the facts that i now know.

On Friday May 10th I received a letter asking me to attend a meeting in Nashville wherein members of the Ethics Committee would be interviewed separately and individually prior to a regular meeting.

Upon my arrival of the 9th floor of the Cordell Hull building, Legislative Legal Services Offices, I was met by journalists and cameras together with four Democrats and myself. I waited until my name was called for my private interview.

I was given a statement of facts setting forth the Speaker’s position on many of the issues that have been raised. During my 6 years on the Ethics Committee, I have never received a request for an advisory opinion from a legislator concerning his own conduct. Nevertheless, I agreed to participate as long as the opinion rendered was based upon facts that would withstand scrutiny.

After reviewing the facts as presented I advised that the facts did not appear to be in line with the documents existing in the public realm. At the immediate conclusion of my review of the statement of facts I was handed a 2 or 3 page advisory opinion, bearing signature lines [for] all 10 [Ethics Committee] members, which based upon the facts presented, found no ethical violations.

I was stunned that facts had been produced with an exonerating advisory opinion written for which no ethics committee member had input.

I was not allowed to leave with any documents from the meeting. I inquired as to the author of the opinion and was advised legal counsel for the committee had written the opinion. I immediately advised those present that I would not be signing the advisory opinion. I did however agree to sign the advisory opinion and adopt it as my own if the Speaker would state under oath that the facts stated were true and correct. I was advised that would not happen.

I was further advised that the opinion was accurate because it was based upon the facts as presented and was limited to those facts. That the opinion had no import if the facts weren’t correct. That explanation was not sufficient to me. After considering the entire situation, I decided i would sign the advisory opinion if I could modify that opinion to clearly state that the facts upon which the opinion was rendered appear to be divergent from facts in the public record. I advised that I would sign the opinion if I was allowed to write the final paragraph and attach this letter of facts to the opinion as exhibit A.

I understood my request would be honored and that I should go and develop that language and bring it to the 1:30 [Monday] meeting with the full committee. To my knowledge I was the only Republican invited to the pre meeting and the only Republican to see the fact letter or the advisory opinion.

I left the 9th floor and went to my office on the 6th floor. On the trip to my office, 3 staff members asked if i was ok. Each commenting that my face was red and my blood pressure might be high. Considering those comments I decided to leave and go for a walk outside. Within 5 minutes I exited Cordell Hull and was less than a block [when] I received a message that the 1:30 meeting had been canceled. To my recollection no reason was given.

It was discussed that the opinion would be used as an exoneration of the Speaker’s conduct. Further that if it is to used for such purposes, it must be done with accuracy and integrity befitting the Ethics Committee.

As with some I hold forgiveness as the greatest virtue. Being the beneficiary of forgiveness many times I am eager to offer it to my fellow man. What was said or done 3 yeas ago deserves to be considered in the light of that person’s life journey at that point.

My concern with the meeting is that it shows a heart for misrepresentation and political maneuvering to save the requestor’s office even at a loss of reputation and integrity of the House Ethics Committee.

This is the most egregious act I have been made aware of. It is not an allegation of past conduct it is proof of present state of mind and present conduct. In my 6 years on the Ethics panel this is wholly without precedent. If the requestor is willing to rig and predetermine an outcome of the ethics committee this week he is in my opinion he is not fit to hold the trust of his office or the state of Tennessee.

I could argue that the text messages are disqualifying. I could argue that knowing and failing to report felony criminal conduct in his presence is disqualifying. I could argue that spending 7 million dollars to operate his office more than Speaker Beth Harwell is disqualifying but respectfully I state that attempting to pre-determine an opinion from the Ethics Committee is the final straw for me.

Respectfully I submit that no other facts are needed. If the ethics panel is not a sacred and trusted institution above rank political maneuvering and conniving then we as a body are lost. I respectfully now call for the immediate resignation of the Speaker. For the good of the people of Tennessee it is time the Republican Caucus lead, not follow, stand straight and firm, not cowering to political threats and pressures, to follow our oaths of office and to vote to remove the speaker.

Knowing this statement will bring political retribution on me and therefore the people of District 29 I make these facts known out of an understanding that my oath as a state representative requires such action and leaves no alternative.

 

 

Here’s the letter calling for the GOP caucus meeting on Casada

Rep. Glen Casada (R-Franklin) speaks to fellow Republicans about his bid for House speaker on Nov. 20, 2018. He was later nominated for the position by 47 of 73 members. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Here is the letter calling for the secret House Republican Caucus meeting about Glen Casada’s speakership amid a text messaging scandal, as obtained by Stephen Elliott of the Nashville Scene.

The letter calls on Caucus Chairman Cameron Sexton to “conduct the meeting in such a way as to protect the Speaker and the Caucus concerning the dissemination of the vote or comments made therein.”

THIS IS A CONFIDENTIAL COMMUNICATION INTENDED ONLY FOR THE HOUSE REPUBLICAN CAUCUS. NO DISSEMINATION OF THIS COMMUNICATION ORALLY OR IN WRITING IS PERMITTED.

5/10/2019

Dear Chairman Sexton:

Pursuant to the House Republican Caucus bylaws, the undersigned members, being ten (10) or more, hereby respectfully request a Caucus meeting to be held in Nashville, Tennessee at the earliest possible date.

The purpose of this meeting is to discuss the sentiment of the Caucus regarding support for Speaker Glen Casada and to conduct, if duly moved by the Caucus, a secret ballot vote to establish whether Speaker Casada has the support of the Caucus to continue in his current position as Speaker of the House of Representatives. The overarching goal is that we move forward as a constructive, united Caucus for the House as a body on behalf of all Tennesseans. The meeting is called for these purposes and no other.

We request the meeting be held offsite and only Caucus members be permitted to attend. We request that you as Caucus Chair develop whatever rules you deem necessary to conduct the meeting in such a way as to protect the Speaker and the Caucus concerning the dissemination of the vote or comments made therein.

The signatures of the members below should not be construed as indicating any particular position they may take at the meeting.

Regards,

/Jerry Sexton/

Other signatories:

Rep. Mike Carter, Ooltewah

Rep. Ron Gant, Rossville

Rep. Patsy Hazlewood, Signal Mountain

Rep. Dan Howell, Cleveland

Rep. Chris Hurt, Halls

Rep. Justin Lafferty, Knoxville

Rep. John Ragan, Oak Ridge

Rep. Jay Reedy, Erin

Rep. Chris Todd, Jackson

Rep. Terri Lynn Weaver, Lancaster

Rep. Jason Zachary, Knoxville

Public to be barred from GOP meeting on Casada’s future

Members of the House Republican Caucus vote on a motion during a meeting to elect their nominee for speaker in Nashville on Nov. 20, 2018. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

The public was invited to attend the House Republican Caucus meeting in November in which Rep. Glen Casada was elected as the nominee for speaker.

Not so for the meeting scheduled for Monday to decide whether members still have confidence in Casada’s leadership amid a scandal involving lewd and racist text messages.

House GOP spokesman Doug Kufner said the meeting will be limited to members of the caucus. That’s at the request of those who called for the gathering, he said. Reps. Jason Zachary (R-Knoxville) and Jerry Sexton (R-Bean Station) have been identified as gathering the 10 signatures needed to hold the caucus meeting.

Some members have been told they could be required to check their mobile phones at the door for fear of details being leaked to public.