Some Republican lawmakers have joined a chorus of Tennessee House Democrats asking for Speaker Glen Casada to resign over multiple controversies circulating on Capitol Hill.
The new allegations surrounding the House Speaker and his former Chief of Staff Cade Cothren indicate that the top aide was allegedly able to eavesdrop on committee rooms where many people, like lawmakers and lobbyists, were having, what was believed to be, private conversations when committees were not in session.
House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Stewart and Rep. Bo Mitchell held a press conference Wednesday morning to address concerns over the alleged recordings of private meeting rooms inside the capitol without knowledge.
“I guarantee you, if you ask around, use these rooms all the time for all sorts of private meetings,” Rep. Stewart said.
East Tennesee House Member David Hawk, who ran for speaker is one of the Republican leaders also calling for Casada’s resignation.
Rep. Hawk shared the following email he sent to Speaker Casada with News 2:
“I suggest that you bow out gracefully and resign. After the way that Cade has treated some members so poorly, you will not be able to lead us with any sense of confidence in your decision-making.
Still your friend,
Two other Republican lawmakers, Reps. Jeremy Faison (Crosby) and Bill Dunn (Knoxville) have also called for Casada’s resignation.
The same demand for Casada’s resignation was also made by Democrats after he reportedly locked doors and physically blocked exits to the chamber to keep lawmakers inside and maintain a quorum on the final day of the legislative session.
Calls came as well before and after Casada’s Chief of Staff Cade Cothren resigned after admitting to sending racist text messages and using illegal drugs while at work.
Casada previously dismissed the allegations against him as well as calls for him to resign, saying the text messages “from years ago” sent between him and his former chief of staff “locker room talk.”
Rep. Matthew Hill (R-Jonesborough), who chairs the Ethics Subcommittee, has not called on Casada to resign. Hill issued this statement to News Channel 11:
I appreciate Speaker Casada’s timely and thoughtful phone conversation with our caucus members today, and I believe the Speaker was sincere and contrite in his apology to our members and the citizens of Tennessee for his comments dating back several years ago.
I agree with his call for the TBI and District Attorney to conduct and expedite thorough investigations into the allegations raised by the Justin Jones email.
As Chairman of the Ethics Committee, we will meet next week to begin an extensive review of our existing personnel policies in place to ensure a safe environment for all in our General Assembly.
The Committee has also been tasked with reviewing and investigating the termination of former Chief of Staff Cade Cothren. Any and all violations of policy are serious, and they will be dealt with an appropriate and timely manner.
I am choosing at this time to reserve further comments until all the facts have been gathered and the investigation is completed.
SPEAKER CASADA’S ACTION PLAN
Despite calls from both sides of the aisle to resign, without any prompts from Gov. Lee, Casada’s new statement about the controversies surrounding his office remains makes no mention of him leaving office.
Instead, the lawmaker said he is in the process of creating an action plan with members of his staff and the House Ethics Committee to make sure that no other “missteps” occur in the future.
Once dismissing them as “locker room talk,” the lawmaker also gives a longer, more sincere apology for the text messages he exchanged with Cothren that have been the subject of news reports and the prompting for the aide’s resignation.
While Casada apologizes for his own messages and takes responsibility for Cothren’s messages, the statement released specifically makes a point to separate his actions from those of his former chief of staff.
The Speaker calls his own messages and actions “inappropriate,” and asks for forgiveness.
When referring to the “racial slurs, drug use, and various other inappropriate comments,” made by his former top aide, Casada says, “I condemn them in their entirety and I do not tolerate that type of behavior as an elected official or as a human being.”
House Speaker Glen Casada full statement:
“I take complete ownership over the text messages with inappropriate comments about women that I exchanged with my former Chief of Staff and another individual several years ago. It’s embarrassing and humbling to have it displayed in this manner. I apologize and hope that my friends, family, colleagues, and constituents find a way to forgive me for it because it is not the person I am and it hasn’t been the way I have conducted myself as Speaker.
I’d also like to take the time to express my sincere disappointment for the myriad of other messages between my former Chief of Staff and another individual that have surfaced which included racial slurs, drug use, and various other inappropriate comments. I condemn them in their entirety and I do not tolerate that type of behavior as an elected official or as a human being.
Moving forward, I have put together an action plan to be executed by members of my staff, members of the House Ethics Committee, and the joint legislative offices that seeks to provide clarity to what has transpired, as well as ensure that I am doing everything within my power to prevent future missteps. I look forward to executing this plan as I work towards establishing trust where it has been broken and ensuring that the House is more ready than ever to conduct the people’s business.”
The full action plan has four main points, according to official documents from Casada’s office:
GOV. LEE: ‘PREMATURE’ TO SUGGEST TBI INVESTIGATION
Republican Gov. Bill Lee told reporters Wednesday that would be “premature” to involve the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation in the scandal.
“I think it’s premature to suggest that or–those are hypothetical things. TBI investigation? Premature to suggest that,” Lee told News 2 at an event in Smyrna late Wednesday morning. “The people of Tennessee deserve to have an environment that is respectful and—holds to a high standard that we all expect, and that is what I will be calling for across state government.”
However, Lee did support the resignation of Casada’s chief of staff earlier this week, releasing the following statement on Twitter: