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.

Report: Casada makes liberal use of state plane

The Tennessean reports that House Speaker Glen Casada (R-Franklin) used the state plane on five round trips since coming into office in January. That compares with two trips predecessor Beth Harwell (R-Nashville) took over her entire eight years as speaker. Senate Speaker Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge) has used it only once since 2017.

Casada’s flights to and from Knoxville, Chattanooga, Memphis, and Fort Campbell cost nearly $7,900. Another trip planned for Sparta was cancelled amid the test messaging scandal enveloping Casada’s office.

Reps. Johnson, Moon make it 9 Republicans to call for Casada resignation

Reps. Curtis Johnson of Clarksville and Jerome Moon of Maryville  have joined the call for Glen Casada to step aside as House speaker following a text message scandal. That brings the number of Republicans to nine making appeals for Casada to resign from the chamber’s top leadership role.

“We need to restore the trust that has been lost,” Johnson told The Tennessean. “He has become a political liability to the members of the House and to the state. I would urge the speaker to step down.”

Moon wrote an email to a constituent over the weekend to say Casada’s removal needs to take place.

“Please write or email the Governor,” Moon wrote wrote in the email obtained by the The Tennessean. “Because he can call a special session to remove the Speaker, and that is what needs to happen.

“I don’t believe the Speaker will call a special session to remove himself.”

Gant: ‘We can all recognize the severity of what is happening’

House Speaker Glen Casada (R-Franklin) checks his phone in the House chamber in Nashville on March 4, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Republican Rep. Ron Gant, the assistant House majority leader, is issuing a call for a caucus meeting to discuss the fallout from the text messaging scandal enveloping Glen Casada’s speakership.

“With all the vitriol playing out before our eyes; personally, I find myself thinking that if this is what public service has come to then I may want to serve the community that I love in another way,” wrote Gant.

It’s unclear whether Gant’s call for a caucus meeting differs from once sought by Rep. Jason Zachary (R-Knoxville), which the latter has described as involving a “vote of confidence” for the speaker.

Here’s the full statement from Gant (formatted for clarity):

I believe in our government and I believe in the people of our great state, but my heart has been heavy over the last couple of weeks. With all the vitriol playing out before our eyes; personally, I find myself thinking that if this is what public service has come to then I may want to serve the community that I love in another way. It’s no wonder why good people don’t want to serve in politics with all the viciousness and hatred towards one another that takes place.

I believe we all can recognize the severity of what is happening. We are all looking for direction and understanding at this time. Therefore, as the Assistant Majority Leader I’m calling for a caucus meeting within the coming days. I want to thank those who have reached out to me personally over the last few days, I value your input greatly.

After much thought and prayer; along with hearing from my district and various fellow house members, I feel it is imperative that we meet as a caucus and seek a direction as members of the Tennessee House of Representatives. I would encourage us to consider the counsel of Micah “He has shown you, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”

I ask that we each pray and seek our Heavenly Father for His wisdom and direction as we move forward.

 

Is this what Casada meant by ‘nothing else?’

House Speaker Glen Casada (R-Franklin), right, meets with colleagues on the Senate floor on May 1, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Seeking to shore up support among the Republican caucus last week, House Speaker Glen Casada assured colleagues “there’s nothing else to come out” in the text message scandal that threatens to topple him from the chamber’s top leadership position.

But new revelations emerged on Monday, as WTVF’s Phil Williams reported that Casada and his now former chief of staff exchanged text messages about whether two young women were at the legal age of consent.

Cade Cothren, then the House GOP press secretary, sent a text to Casada in August 2016 featuring a vide of two women dancing in his apartment.

“R they 21?” wrote Casada, then the House Republican Caucus chairman.

“It only takes 18,” responded Cothren, who was named Casada’s chief of staff after his election as speaker in January.

Casada’s answer: “Lol!!! And true!”

Cothren resigned last week after WTVF and The Tennessean reported he had sent racist and lewd texts. Casada said he never saw racist texts and apologized for “locker room talk” regarding women.

In one exchange, Cothren described a woman pictured upside down next to a pole as “wife material,” and Casada responded: “Can I just touch?” Cothren answered: “Maybe just once.”

In another exchange, Cothren texted Casada about a supposed sexual encounter with a woman in the bathroom at the Party Fowl restaurant, adding he’d send pictures later.

Casada remarked his aide had only been “gone for 60 seconds,” adding, “R u a minute man?” Cothren answered that he takes after Casada.

“Like father, like son,” he wrote to the speaker.

Cothren in other text messages solicited oral sex and nude photos from an intern and made sexual advances toward a female lobbyist.

Rep. Terri Lynn Weaver (R-Lancaster) became the seventh Republican to call to Casada to step aside as speaker. The Tennessee black caucus also voted to call for Casada to resign as the chamber’s leader after a marathon meeting on Monday.

Former Republican gubernatorial nominee joins Lee administration

Jim Bryson (handout photo)

Jim Bryson, a onetime Republican gubernatorial nominee, is joining Gov. Bill Lee’s administration.

Bryson was a state senator when he lost to then-Gov. Phil Bredesen in the 2006 governor’s race. He has been appointed deputy commissioner of parks and conservation at the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation. Bryson joins a fellow former state lawmaker Joe Carr as a deputy commissioner at the agency.

Here’s the full release from the Lee administration:

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation Commissioner David Salyers today announced the appointment of Jim Bryson as deputy commissioner of Parks and Conservation at TDEC.

“Jim’s experience in business, state government and community involvement, coupled with his passion for the outdoors, makes him uniquely qualified for this position,” Salyers said. “I look forward to working with Jim to make Tennessee State Parks the best run state park system in the nation.”

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