sexual misconduct

Wake me up when September ends? Byrd still mum on re-election plans

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

State Rep. David Byrd (R-Waynesboro) tried to defuze efforts to oust him from the General Assembly during a special session in August by telling GOP colleagues behind closed doors that he wouldn’t run for re-election next year. When confronted by The Tennessean afterward, Byrd declined to confirm anything, saying only he would have a statement about his plans in September.

Well, September has come and gone. And Byrd, who has never publicly addressed sexual misconduct allegations dating back to when he was a girls high school basketball coach, still hasn’t made any public pronouncements. The lawmaker didn’t respond to several efforts by The Tennessean to reach him for comment.

Lee and McNally weigh in on Casada text message scandal

Senate Speaker Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge), center, attends an economic development announcement in Nashville. At left is Gov. Bill Lee and on the far right is House Speaker Glen Casada (R-Franklin). (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal).

Republican Gov. Bill Lee and Senate Speaker Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge) have issued statements on the text message scandal surrounding House Speaker Glen Casada (R-Franklin).

Here’s what Lee had to say:

When we choose to enter public service, we have an obligation to hold ourselves to a higher standard and cultivate an environment of professionalism and respect. We owe it to Tennesseans to ensure they know that all of us in elected office hold ourselves to that high standard. Recent revelations have shaken that faith, and we need to ensure that confidence is fully restored.

And here’s McNally:

Senate leadership and I are greatly disappointed by the inappropriate actions and attitudes revealed in recent news reports. Every person who interacts with the state legislature should be treated with the utmost respect. It is deeply troubling that some have fallen short of this standard. Tennesseans expect and deserve better from those who serve the public trust. Senate leadership is united in our commitment that members and staff continue to uphold the standard Tennesseans demand of their public officials.

House Democrats call for Casada’s removal as speaker

House Speaker Glen Casada (R-Franklin) speaks to Republican colleagues in Nashville on April 23, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

House Democrats are calling for Rep. Glen Casada’s removal as speaker following the resignation of his chief of staff.

Here’s the full release:

NASHVILLE–Members of the House Democratic Caucus are demanding the removal of Rep. Glen Casada as Speaker of the Tennessee House of Representatives.  Casada’s Chief of Staff Cade Cothren resigned yesterday after recent media reports that he used illegal drugs in the legislative building, solicited oral sex from an intern in a text message and also sent racist and sexist texts to others, including the Speaker.  It is now clear that Speaker Casada participated in numerous acts that make his continued service as Speaker untenable, including:

  • Casada joked with Cothren about a picture of a woman dancing on a pole, asking Cothren at one point, “Can I just touch?”, and saying “nice pics”.
  • In another text, the two joked about how long a sexual encounter Cothren claimed to have with a woman lasted. Casada asked Cothren, “R u a minute man?” Cothren responded by saying, “Yes, I take after you. Like Father, like son.”
  • Another exchange between the two included Cothren using a racist meme that was labeled “black people” when he was referring to a West Tennessee voting district.

Democratic Leader Karen Camper said: “Citizens of the State of Tennessee deserve to have a Speaker that they can trust; whose character and moral standards are beyond reproach.  The actions of our Speaker are unbecoming and disrespectful, not only to the citizens of our state, but to the office he holds.”  Caucus Chair Mike Stewart added: “Actions have consequences; Speaker Casada’s actions are obviously disqualifying and he must either resign or be removed.”

Casada says support among GOP caucus remains ‘overwhelming’

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

House Speaker Glen Casada says he still has “overwhelming” support among fellow Republicans in the chamber despite the resignation of of chief of staff amid allegations of racist text, drug use in his office, and soliciting sex acts with an intern and lobbyist.

“If you look at the results of what we’ve done in the House of Representatives, I think no one can dispute things have run smoother than they have in a generation, and we have had bold conservative leadership,” Casada told told WTN-FM’s Brian Wilson.

“Based on my conversations with them, they are proud to have someone in charge that’s leading them in a direction of making Tennessee the most conservative state,” he said.

The text message exchange included Cothren boasting to Casada about having sex with a woman in a Nashville restaurant they had attended together.

“I participated in locker room talk with two adult men that was not intended to go to anyone else and I was wrong,” the Franklin Republican said “In the last several years, that kind of talk has not entered or left my mouth.”

“I got caught up in the moment at that time, and participated in that text messaging the two adult men,” he said. “And that is not me today.”

Casada said the text messages were released by a “disgruntled employee” who vowed to take down Cothren and Casada after being fired.

“Cade did an excellent job. Three years ago, he came to me and said he had a problem. He said he was struggling. And he didn’t say what it was, but I knew what it was, and that he wanted a second chance to turn his life around. I gave him that and his did turn his life around,” Casada said.

“Why he is resigning is things that he did before he turned his life around,” he said. Casada denied prior knowledge of Cothren’s drug use or soliciting sex acts from other women at the Capitol complex.

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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