ethics committee

Senate to take up Robinson ethics case, potential ouster on Feb. 2

State Sen. Katrina Robinson confers with Rep. G.A. Hardaway (both D-Memphis) after the Sente Ethics Committee recommended Robinson’s expulsion on Jan. 20, 20222. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Senate Speaker Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge) says the full chamber will take up the ethics case against Sen. Katrina Robinson on Feb. 2. The Senate Ethics Committee last week recommended the Memphis Democrat’s expulsion over federal fraud charges related to her nursing school.

Robinson is awaiting sentencing after a jury found her guilty of two charges of misspending federal grant money intended for the school. She has also agreed to pre-trial diversion on separate case in which the government alleged she and two codefendants conspired to cheat a man out of $14,470 by falsely claiming the money was needed to cover tuition for a student at her school.

McNally has called on Robinson to resign before the matter comes before the full Senate. Democrats called the move premature because Robinson hasn’t been sentenced yet.

Here is the Senate Ethics Committee’s report to the chamber:

The Senate Ethics Committee held a public meeting on January 20, 2021 after the Committee voted 4-0 in a private hearing on January 10, 2021 that probable cause existed that Senator Katrina Robinson violated the law or the Senate Code of Ethics. The committee made this determination based on Senator Robinson’s actions that resulted in a jury conviction in federal court on September 30, 2021 for wire fraud (counts 11 and 12 of her indictment) and for actions which led to a pretrial diversion agreement with the United States that was filed with the United States District Court for the Western District of Tennessee on December 17, 2021.

Complaint 1: A jury conviction in federal court on September 30, 2021 for wire fraud (counts 11 and 12 of her indictment); and

Complaint 2: A pretrial diversion agreement with the United States that was filed with the United States District Court for the Western District of Tennessee on December 17,2021.

The following public court documents were submitted to the committee as exhibits and are attached to this report:

Exhibit 1: The Superseding Indictment from January 14, 2021 in United States of America v. Katrina Robinson, Criminal No. 2:20-cr-20148-SHL

Exhibit 2: The Jury Instructions in United States of America v. Katrina Robinson, Cr. No. 20-20148- SHL

Exhibit 3: The Jury’s Verdict in United States of America v. Katrina Robinson, Cr. No. 20-20148- SHL

Exhibit 4: Order Denying Defendant’s Motion for Judgment of Acquittal as to Counts 11 and 12; Granting Defendant’s Motion for Judgment of Acquittal as to Counts 19 and 20; and Denying Defendant’s Motion for New Trial in United States of America v. Katrina Robinson, No. 2:20-cr-20148-SHL

Exhibit 5: Criminal Complaint in United States of America v. Katrina Robinson, Katie Ayers, Brooke Boudreaux Case No. 21-cr-20003-MSN/tmp

Exhibit 6: Motion to Dismiss Indictment without Prejudice and the Pretrial Diversion Agreement in United States of America v. Katrina Robinson, Katie Ayers, Brooke Boudreaux Crim. No. 2:21-cr-20003-SHL

Chairman Ferrell Haile explained the complaints and submitted the court documents that support the information in the complaints. The committee had some discussion and some questions from Senator Robinson.

Senator Jack Johnson made a motion that Sen. Robinson’s actions in the two matters that were articulated by Chairman Haile do constitute a violation of the Code of Ethics of the Senate. The committee voted 4-1 in support of the motion.

A second motion was made by Senator Jack Johnson that should the senate find that the actions that have been laid forth do constitute a violation of the Senate Code of Ethics that this committee in compliance with Article 11, Section 12 of the Constitution of Tennessee recommend that Sen. Robinson be expelled from the body. The committee voted 4-1 in support of the motion.

Therefore, the Senate ethics committee finds that Senator Robinson’s actions in the two complaints do constitute a violation of the Code of Ethics of the Senate and that if the Senate makes that same finding, further recommends the Senate, in compliance with Article II, Section 12 of the Constitution of the state of Tennessee, expel Senator Robinson from the body.

/signed/

Chairman Ferrell Haile

Sen. Jack Johnson

Sen. Steve Southerland

Sen. John Stevens

New TNJ edition alert: How the GOP’s new congressional, state Senate maps shake out in Tennessee

It all fits together somehow.

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

 — From one into three: Congressional remap cracks Dem stronghold of Nashville.

— State Senate redistricting solidifies current GOP seats.

— Read state Supreme Court nominee Sarah Keeton Campbell’s answers about finding meaning in messy legislation, how oral arguments influence appellate cases, and what she would take into consideration in appointing a new attorney general.

— Legislative roundup: Senate Ethics Committee to consider ousting a sitting member before pending legal issues come to conclusion, treasurer of anti-Tillis PAC says she registered group at the behest of Cade Cothren.

Also: A forgiveness fest between Justin Jones and Glen Casada, the Memphis police chief has her gun stolen out of her husband’s Porsche, and Bud Hulsey gets a new phone.

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

Or subscribe here.

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.

 

 

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