Members of the House Ethics Committee reconvened this afternoon and unanimously voted to dismiss charges of sexual harassment and lying by Speaker Kent Williams as filed by Rep. Brian Kelsey. The motion to dismiss was made by Republican State Rep. Beth Harwell of Nashville.
When they reconvened from a recess, members of the ethics committee heard again from legal counsel that they had no standing to hear the nearly two-year-old allegations made by a third party not present for any of the alleged activity.
Harwell then asked that the legal staff of the legislature meet and present strengthened sexual harassment complaint protocols to the ethics committee within 10 days of the resumption of legislative session. That motion was also agreed upon unanimously.
Kelsey was trembling with anger after his complaints were denied, saying that the committee made a "mockery of ethics." He said his Republican colleagues who voted against his complaint had made a "bad mistake."
Kelsey then stated again that this was a "bad fairy tale" and that "at least in Alice in Wonderland, they held the trial before the verdict."
Shortly after the meeting adjourned, Rep. Susan Lynn issued a statement that she had indeed checked into the hospital this morning. "I was admitted to the hospital this morning for stress-related symptoms caused by the incident under discussion." she wrote. "After several tests were run, doctors confirmed it was indeed related to stress. I have been released from the hospital, and I am now resting at home. I appreciate everyone's concern."
As originally posted:
Members of the Tennessee House of Representatives' Ethics Committee met this morning to discuss Rep. Brian Kelsey's charge of sexual harassment and lying against Speaker of the House Kent Williams. The committee adjourned until 1 p.m. to discuss procedure with legal counsel, but that hasn't stopped Kelsey (R-Memphis) from declaring that a "cover up" is going on as part of a "bad fairy tale."
It was revealed earlier this month that Rep. Susan Lynn (R-Mt. Juliet) had complained almost two years ago to Republican House Leader Jason Mumpower (R-Bristol) that Williams had on two occasions sexually harassed her. Williams (R-Elizabethton) denied the charges, saying that he had "never harassed anyone," a comment tht prompted Kelsey to file a complaint with the House Ethics Committee.
When that committee convened this morning, Chairman Rep. Ulysses Jones (D-Memphis) asked the legal counsel whether the committee had jurisdiction over the case. Staff attorney Doug Hines said that he did not believe it did and that the matter is the domain of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and Tennessee Human Rights Commission.
The statement caused Kelsey to jump out of his seat and say that he had an avenue in which the matter could be heard, to which Jones quickly banged his gavel and said Kelsey was out of order and had not been recognized.
State Rep. Joe McCord (R-Maryville) was then recognized and began asking procedural questions as to if an allegation was to be heard, should it be heard in an open forum. At that point, Democratic Leader Gary Odom (D-Nashville) suggested that a recess be taken so members of the committee could discuss jurisdictional and legal issues with staff attorneys.
The recess suggestion was accepted without dissent from either Democratic or Republican members of the committee.
After the committee took a recess, Kelsey met with the media and was clearly upset. He claimed that the committee was involved in a "cover up" and it was a "bad fairy tale." Asked why he filed the complaint without having witnessed the alleged harassment or having been part of any investigation, he said it was he because he is a strong advocate for ethics.
Asked if he had spoken with Lynn before he filed the complaint, Kelsey said he had not. Kelsey was then asked if it would have been more appropriate for Lynn to file the complaint. He stated that when her name became public, he felt he had to stand up for ethics in government. He then claimed that Lynn had checked into the hospital this morning because of stress from the issue, something that Lynn's office and Republican colleagues have been unable to confirm.
- ALEX B FRUIN INHERITANCE TRUST; CANDACE F STEFANSIC INHERITANCE TRUST; CANDANCE F STEFANSIC INHERITANCE TRUST; FRUIN, ALEX B TRUSTEE; FRUIN ALEX B INHERITANCE TRUST; STEFANSIC, CANDACE F TRUSTEE; STEFANSIC CANDACE F INHERITANCE TRUST; STEFANSIC CANDANCE F INHERITANCE TRUST
- ROSS, BRIDGETT D
- COOKE, ETHEN LANYARD TRUSTEE; COOKE, ETHEN LEWIS ESTATE
- JACOBS, JESSICA ALEXANDRA; JACOBS, ERIKA BESS