This type of money with strings attached is exactly the type of stimulus money that I am saying we should not be taking.
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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, and 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, so I did so. 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.
The AP asked me whether I had sent a text message offering to withdraw my ethics complaint in return for a committee chairmanship. I said, "No" because the text message was sent before there was even reason to file a complaint. Speaker Williams had not yet released his statement making Rep. Lynn, the sexual harassment victim, like like a liar.
If I were going to extort a chairmanship out of someone, I certainly wouldn't file an ethics complaint against him BEFORE he appointed the chairmen.
Extortion is trying to punish the one member of the House who is trying to enforce ethics complaints. That's an all-new low from the Democratic Leader, who's being paid by the Tennessee Optemetric Association while he votes on bills that affect the group. I know I am putting a target on my back when I stand up for ethics, and I will continue to do so.
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.
(Rep. Kelsey has been a leader on ethics legislation since entering the legislature in 2004. In 2005 he was the first legislator to call for public hearings on allowing the Tennessee Waltz perpetrators to keep their legislative seats. He filed 33 amendments in an effort to strengthen the 2006 ethics bill. He has pushed for legislation to end legislative receptions in which lawmakers are wined and dined by lobbyists. He blew the whistle on lawmakers violating the smoking ban in the capitol. He filed an ethics complaint against Speaker Pro Tem DeBerry for admitting taking $200 cash from a lobbyist and FBI agent while on a gambling trip and claiming there was nothing wrong with her actions. He most recently filed an ethics complaint against Speaker Kent Williams for releasing a statement with the intent to deceive the public about comments he had made to Rep. Lynn about seeing her naked.)
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