casada

New TNJ edition alert: Feds finally drop the hammer on Casada, Cothren

Cade Cothren, speaking on phone, attends a meeting with lawmakers and fellow staffers on the balcony outside the House chamber on April 29, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

The latest print edition of The Tennessee Journal is out. Here is what’s in it:

— Feds charge former House speaker, aide with bribery, kickbacks.

— Casada, Cothren case assigned to judge who once prosecuted John Ford.

— Leaked poll for education group finds ‘slippage’ in support for charter schools.

— Dale Kelly, lawmaker, basketball ref, and longtime mayor, dies at 82.

Also: Memphis school superintendent takes buyout, TDOT gets a new chief engineer, Tennessean editor’s comments draw a social media backlash, and the ongoing license plate drama in Shelby County.

As always, access the your copy of the TNJ here.

Or subscribe here.

Fired chief vaccine officer’s husband ran against erstwhile Lee ally Casada

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

The state on Monday fired Tennessee’s top vaccination officer, The Tennessean’s Brett Kelman reports. Michelle Fiscus, the medical director for vaccine-preventable diseases and immunization programs at the Health Department, said her termination letter gave no reason for her dismissal.

Fiscus told the paper she had become a scapegoat for conservative lawmakers’ anger over the department’s efforts to vaccinate teeenagers against COVID-19.

“It was my job to provide evidence-based education and vaccine access so that Tennesseans could protect themselves against COVID-19,” Fiscus told the paper in a statement. “I have now been terminated for doing exactly that.”

There’s a political subcurrent to the firing. Fiscus’ husband, Brad, ran as an independent candidate against state Rep. Glen Casada (R-Franklin) in last year’s election, finishing third. Many of the lawmakers most upset about the state’s vaccinate efforts were strong supporters of Casada’s truncated House speakership, which collapsed in 2019 amid a racist and sexist text messaging scandal and complaints about a heavy-handed leadership style.

Casada, who played a key role in pushing through Gov. Bill Lee’s signature school voucher law in 2019, was one of three sitting lawmakers to have their homes and offices searched by federal agents in January. No charges have been filed in the probe.

Michelle Fiscus’ full statement follows:

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