From the Office of Torry Johnson:
On Wednesday, February 4, 2009, this office was asked to review the communication from Mr. Kelsey. The entirety of the fax was a line of a text from Kelsey to the assistant, reading “Tell Kent I’m willing to talk about reconciliation if he’s willing to talk about chairman of the full committee”. Johnson says this appears to be more of a request than anything else. Tennessee’s extortion statute requires an element of coercion that is clearly not present in this instance. “I don’t think the TBI needs to devote valuable time to investigate what appears to be an outgrowth of an internal political squabble that is best handled within the House of Representatives itself,” Johnson wrote to Speaker Williams.The DA will also not prosecute in the case of Rep. Jim Cobb's secret recording of staffer Paul Overholser stating that "due to the incomprehensible nature of the content on the tape, and the short amount of time the recorder was used, this case will not be pursued criminally." UPDATE: Rep. Kelsey released the following statement this afternoon referring all further questions to his attorney:
“I sincerely hope the Speaker and the Democratic Leader will join me in tackling the serious problems facing our state: people no longer feel safe in their own homes, and they are worried about keeping their jobs.”
Feb 12, 2009 1:19 PM
...then Rep. Brian Kelsey has another one for you:
“The Democratic Leadership is so unethical they not only dismissed my claim of lying and sexual harassment that they knew was true, but they’re now trying to browbeat the one person in this state that’s standing up for ethics. First they blamed the victim of the sexual harassment for its becoming public, and now they are trying to punish the whistleblower for filing the complaint. It’s not going to work. I’ve always stood up for ethics in this state, and I always will.”The Democratic Leadership dismissed his claim? Excuse me? The ethics committee is comprised of six Republicans and six Democrats. The motion to dismiss Kelsey's ethics complaint against the new speaker was put to the committee by Rep. Beth Harwell, veteran legislator and former TNGOP chair. The vote to dismiss was unanimous. Meaning all six Republicans, including the big two, Jason Mumpower and Glen Casada, voted against him. Democratic leadership? Not exactly.
Feb 2, 2009 9:39 AM
David Oatney on Brian Kelsey's Textortiongate:
When the right people do it, it is normal procedure. Brian Kelsey isn't allowed in on the bargaining, as he is a conservative. Now House Democratic Leader Gary Odom is calling on Kelsey to resign. Really? Is this the same Odom that made his way up to Carter County on Tanksgiving to bargain with Kent Williams about being Speaker of the House? I wonder if it is the selfsame Gary Odom who has served as the Executive Director of the Tennessee Optometric Association, which employs lobbyists on the Hill (what conflict of interest)? Since Gary Odom is now so big on purity of ethics, because of these backroom dealings and conflicts of interest, I call on Gary Odom to resign. Oh, I forgot, Odom's standards do not apply to himself or other Democrats, only to conservative Republicans, hence Odom will go nowhere-but we should all demand that Brian Kelsey should resign for asking for a Chairmanship...
Jan 30, 2009 12:43 PM
Revelations that the Germantown legislator sent a text message to the new House speaker offer to resolve differences in exchange for a committee chairmanship has led to calls for resignation:
Kelsey did not return calls for questions about the new allegation and Odom's suggestion that it amounts to extortion, and his call to resign. In his statement, Kelsey said he filed the ethics complaint knowing that he would not win a chairmanship but before he knew Williams appointed him chairman of the civil practice subcommittee. The text message was sent to Williams' office while he and Republican and Democratic leaders met to appoint committees and their highly sought chairmanships. Williams would only say that he read the text out loud and then told his staff "to handle it however they thought it was appropriate." Odom said he believes Kelsey committed an ethics violation. "He demanded a full committee chairmanship -- indicated that if that took place, it would resolve his differences with the speaker," Odom said. "When that didn't happen, he filed a sexual harassment complaint about an incident in which he wasn't involved nor was a witness to."MORE: Jeff Woods Theo Emery
Jan 30, 2009 8:01 AM
In a statement, Rep. Brian Kelsey concedes he sent the text message that Democrats have interpreted as an offer to drop his fierce opposition and criticism of the speaker in exchange for a committee chairmanship. But, ya know, it's not what it looks like:
“The first day Representative Williams was elected speaker, we had a public disagreement on the House floor in which he asked me whether I had a problem with his being speaker. I answered in the affirmative. After reflecting upon the occurrence over the weekend, I decided to make a peace offering. I realized that, my personal feelings aside, we would both have to work together over the next two years for the good of the people of Tennessee. I sent his assistant a text message saying, “Tell Kent I’m willing to talk about reconciliation if he’s willing to talk about chairman of the full committee.” I sent the message at 9:50 a.m. on January 20th to offer reconciliation and to request my preference regarding committee assignments—the discussions for which were just beginning among the leaders. I had never turned in a committee preference form to Representative Naifeh or Representative Williams, as had other members, because I did not expect either of them to be elected Speaker. Committee assignment discussions began the morning of the 20th and lasted throughout the day of the 20th and 21st. “The afternoon of January 20th I read the new Speaker’s public statement in which he, in essence, called Rep. Lynn and others liars by denying that he had ever told her he would give a week’s pay to see her naked and by denying he was ever reprimanded by Leader Mumpower for doing so. When I read the statement, I was outraged that he would intentionally make such a false statement to the public, and I began to draft an ethics complaint that evening, which I filed early the next afternoon on January 21st. “I filed the ethics complaint knowing full well that I was virtually ensuring that I would not be named chairman of a full committee and thinking that I would probably lose Vice Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, a position that Speaker Williams had offered me the previous week. Nonetheless, I still thought it was the right thing to do to file the complaint. I, along with all other members, did not receive word of my committee assignments until the evening of the 21st after I had already filed the ethics complaint against the Speaker. At least one change was made to those preliminary assignments, and the official appointments were made the 22nd.”SEE ALSO: The Woodsman
Jan 29, 2009 5:33 PM
The AP reports that Rep. Brian Kelsey tried to barter for a committee chairmanship:
Reps. Mike Turner and Gary Odom say Kelsey made the offer in a text message sent to a Williams aide the same day that a 2-year-old allegation of sexual harassment against the speaker came to light. One day later Kelsey filed an ethics complaint seeking to have Williams removed as speaker. According to Turner, the Jan. 20 message said: “I will talk about reconciliation if you make me a full committee chair.” Kelsey denied to AP that he had sent any text message.
Jan 29, 2009 3:54 PM
Williams, upon returning from the funeral of a fellow legislator's wife (whose surname he did mispronounced shortly after becoming speaker), makes a statement on the "resolution" of the ethics complaint made against him by Rep. Brian Kelsey:
I am pleased that the Ethics Committee has completed its work and fully resolved this matter. It is time to turn our undivided attention to the serious challenges which we face. There are serious issues before us and we need serious people to join together to address them. We must get past the bickering and partisanship. The people of Tennessee expect and deserve our very best as we move forward to address these issues.
Jan 28, 2009 4:46 PM
As released by Brian Kelsey:
“I was as surprised as anyone to learn that there was a memo chronicling the events. In fact, I was directly asked by a member of the press if there was any documentation of the events and I answered firmly “no” because I had not recorded anything.” “On Tuesday, January 13, as the member [Williams] in question was being nominated many of us were very angry but I maybe more so. Sitting with my husband and our newly married daughter who both knew about the events of two years earlier, I struggled gretly with the grave injustice.” “I curiously watched the news to see what the speaker would say. I expected him to state that it happened, he apologized and that as far as he knew it was over. And truly, if he had said that it would have been over. What a tremendous shock to hear him deny the events and the apology. Essentially, he is calling me and everyone else that witnessed his deeds a liar.”
Jan 28, 2009 1:55 PM