sexual misconduct

Report: Democratic Rep. Staples faces sexual misconduct investigation

Democratic state Rep. Rick Staples of Knoxville is the subject of an investigation into sexual misconduct allegations, according to The Tennesseans’ Joel Ebert and Natalie Allison.

A woman making the allegations tells the newspaper the lawmaker touched her inappropriately on a recent visit to the state Capitol complex. She says Staples made comments about her appearance before grabbing her and held on to her waist while standing behind her.

The woman reported the details of the encounter to House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Stewart of Nashville, but says she had to follow up with his office before receiving a reply. Stewart and Staples declined to comment to the Tennessean.

Staples could face disciplinary action including removal from the House Ethics Committee, to which he was appointed by House Speaker Glen Casada (R-Franklin) in January.

The woman bringing the allegations involved in state Democratic politics and says Staples had previously made inappropriate comments.

“My first day doing anything in politics, one of the very first things I heard was not to be alone in a room with Rick,” she told the newspaper.

Read the full report here.

Byrd removed from subcommittee chairmanship following anti-voucher vote

Embattled Rep. David Byrd (R-Waynesboro) attends a House Education Committee meeting in Nashville on March 28, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Embattled state Rep. David Byrd (R-Waynesboro) has been removed as chairman of House education subcommittee a day after voting against Gov. Bill Lee’s school voucher proposal.

House Speaker Glen Casada (R-Franklin) announced the move Thursday, The Tennessean reports.

“Following discussions with members of the House and after careful consideration, I have formally asked Representative Byrd to step down from his position as chairman of the House Education Administration Subcommittee,” Casada said a statement.

Byrd’s chairmanship has been the subject of regular protests at the legislative office complex over allegations of sexual misconduct with teenage basketball players when he was their high school coach in the 1980s. Byrd was overwhelmingly re-elected in November despite revelations that he apologized to one of the women in a recorded phone call.

“Representative Byrd agrees that this is the best path forward in ensuring the House of Representatives can focus on the issues that truly matter to all Tennesseans. This decision is based on input from members and to continue the orderly operations of the House,”  Casada said in the statement.

Byrd has long been a target of school choice proponents for his steadfast opposition to voucher legislation. This year’s voucher bill cleared the House Education Committee on Wednesday on a 14-9 vote. Byrd was among four Republicans who voted against the measure.

Casada supported Byrd during his re-election campaign, and had defended appointing him to his subcommittee chairmanship until Thursday.

UPDATE: Casada’s chief of staff, Cade Cothren, told reporters it would be an “absolute lie” to suggest Byrd’s removal as chairman was linked to his voucher vote.

GOP colleagues split over Byrd chairmanship

A Tennessean survey of House Republicans has found the caucus is split over whether Rep. David Byrd (R-Waynesboro) should remain chairman of an education subcommittee given allegations of sexual misconduct with teenage basketball players when he was their high school coach in the 1980s.

Byrd has not specifically denied the allegations made by a woman who recorded a phone call with the lawmaker in which he apologized for unspecified past transgressions.

House Republican leadership tried to keep members from answering questions from the newspaper’s reporters, urging them to direct questions to caucus spokespeople. Eleven members declined to answer questions, while others spoke on condition of anonymity.

Read the full report here.

Casada’s office orders removal of women protesting Rep. Byrd

House Speaker Glen Casada’s office ordered troopers to remove six women holding signs protesting Rep. David Byrd’s chairmanship from a committee meeting.

The Associated Press reports the women sitting in the audience held signs at face-level reading “Enough is enough,” “Take a stand,” and “Protect constituents.” Three women have accused Bryd of sexual misconduct when they were teenage basketball players and he was their their 28-year-old high school basketball coach.

One of the women, Christi Rice, has since recorded a call to Byrd in which the lawmaker apologizes for unspecified transgressions. He has denied anything happened with other students.

“I wish I had a do-over because I promise you I would have corrected that and that would’ve never happened,” Byrd said in the recorded call. “But I hope you believe me when I say that it’s one of those things that I think about it all the time, and I always ask forgiveness for it and I hope you forgive me.”

Casada’s predecessor, Beth Harwell, had demanded Byrd’s resignation after the allegations were first aired by WSMV-TV last year. But Casada has deemed the allegations to be “fake news” and appointed Byrd chairman of an education subcommittee after he was overwhelmingly re-elected in November.

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Groups work to unseat Republican state Rep. Byrd following sexual misconduct allegations

Rep. David Byrd (R-Waynesboro) takes a photo during at event in Lawrenceburg on June 4, 2018. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

From a press release:

Nashville, Tenn — Indivisible, Women’s March-Power Together TN, and other partner organizations in collaboration with the  #EnoughisEnough Tennessee PAC will attempt to unseat Representative David Byrd (R) in the 2018 election cycle as he stands accused of sexual misconduct by three former high school basketball players whom he coached at Wayne County High School. 

Indivisible, along with Rep. Sherry Jones and one of David Byrd’s accusers will hold a press conference beginning at 1:00 PM Thursday, and a canvass into Rep. Byrd’s district on October 13th to increase local awareness about the campaign. Participating organizations seek to draw a line from the allegations of misconduct at the highest offices with Brett Kavanaugh to the re-election of David Byrd.

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