The stage is set for a dramatic showdown on Monday afternoon in downtown Nashville between about a dozen Republican state legislators, led by an increasingly vocal State Rep. Mike Carter (R-Ooltewah), and Tennessee Speaker of the House Glen Casada.
At issue is whether the 73 member Tennessee House Republican Caucus will undertake a secret ballot vote to issue a statement on whether they continue to maintain confidence in Glen Casada as Speaker of the Tennessee House of Representatives.
The controversies surrounding the embattled Speaker have been identified and amplified by local mainstream media outlets led by NewsChannel 5 and The Tennessean.
Phil Williams of NewsChannel 5 led the attacks on the Speaker with a report earlier this month that alleged (1) the Speaker’s staff altered the date of an email sent to the Speaker by social justice warrior and Vanderbilt Divinity Student Justin Jones to “frame” him for violating a court order and (2) the Speaker exchanged offensive text messages in 2016 with Cade Cothren and an unnamed former aide.
Cothren, chief of staff to Speaker Casada since January of this year, admitted to sending the offensive texts in 2016, and resigned his position.
Speaker Casada subsequently confirmed that he had sent two offensive texts that objectified women in 2016, at a time he was Republican Majority Leader but not Speaker, and apologized for his conduct then.
On Friday, Carter called for Casada’s resignation, alleging he attempted to “rig and interfere with” a proposed advisory opinion of the House Ethics Committee of which he is a member:
A member of the House Ethics Committee, Representative Mike Carter (R-Ooltewah) issued a statement calling for the resignation of Glen Casada as House Speaker after participating in a confidential advisory opinion process.
All aspects of a House Ethics Committee advisory opinion are confidential, according to Representative Matthew Hill (R-Jonesborough), Deputy Speaker and Chair of the House Ethics Committee, who said in an exclusive statement to The Tennessee Star that, “Per House rules, an advisory opinion and any information related to it is kept confidential.”
The advisory opinion was requested by House Speaker Glen Casada (R-Franklin) as part of an action plan he issued May 8 that, as he put it, “seeks to provide clarity on what has transpired, as well as ensure that I am doing everything within my power to prevent future missteps.”
In the lengthy statement published by Times Free Press, Carter retreated from his previous position that a decision not be made until all the facts were known and the investigation completed, because he feels moved to call for the resignation of Speaker Casada based on the facts that he now knows.
Speaker Casada shot back on Saturday, calling Carter’s allegations “the most maddening allegations made so date.”
Casada vehemently denied the “most maddening allegation made to date,” adding, “I have done absolutely nothing to influence any work of the Ethics Committee. Period.”
In addition to the sexist and racist text messages Casada was engaged in or copied on with his former Chief of Staff Cade Cothren and another former staffer from 2016, allegations have been made that an email was manipulated to frame left-wing activist Justin Jones who has been legally charged with assaulting Casada, surveillance of House committee rooms, wrongdoing relative to the vote on the Education Savings Accounts legislation, and the most recent claim that political ads during the 2018 re-election campaign for Representative David Byrd (R-Waynesboro) did not properly identify that they were paid for by Casada’s political action committee.
Casada made his own charge that Carter’s letter “is nothing more than a deliberate attempt to mislead and an absolute disgrace from someone that should know better.”
As The Star reported last week, the Caucus meeting was called after 12 members wrote to House Republican Caucus Chairman Cameron Sexton requesting it specifically for the purpose of discussing Speaker Casada. Notably, the Bylaws of the Caucus provide only two specific legal actions which the Caucus could take: (1) expulsion from the House, which would require the approval of 4/5 of the members, or (2) censure, which would require the approval of 2/3 of the member.
The vote of confidence in the Speaker would come in the form of a proposal, which would also require a 2/3 vote to become the official position of the Caucus.
Politically, however, if a majority of the Caucus members, but not 2/3, voted in favor of a proposal expressing no confidence in the Speaker, his hold on power would become problematic, even though technically the Caucus would be unable to remove him. .
On Thursday, The Tennessee Star asked Chairman Sexton to make the proceedings of the Caucus meeting open to the public and available for audio and live broadcast. On Friday, Chairman Sexton politely declined that request.