Earlier this month Representative Mike Carter (R-Ooltewah) complained about a series of meetings held with individual members of the House Ethics Committee, Chaired by Rep. Matthew Hill (R-Jonesboro), on Monday May 13. The meetings were held in an effort to develop an approved advisory opinion regarding certain facts surrounding alleged actions of House Speaker Glen Casada (R-Franklin). Chairman Hill later indicated that the meetings with individual members of the Ethics Committee were necessary in view of the quickly developing story and the need to get input from members within a timeline that did not permit a full meeting.
Carter claimed the development of an advisory opinion that had been requested by Casada was part of an attempt by Casada, through Hill, to protect his speakership. Carter said of his meeting with Hill and two of the Committee’s legal counsel: “my concern with the meeting is that it shows a heart for misrepresentation and political maneuvering to save the requestor’s office even at a loss of reputation and integrity of the House Ethics Committee. This is the most egregious act I have been made aware of.” Carter also implied that Casada was attempting to “rig and predetermine” action by the House Ethics Committee.
Casada, and Hill, vehemently denied Carter’s claim that the Ethics Committee meetings to develop a draft Opinion were part of a scheme to “rig and predetermine” action by the Committee. Several legislators have told the Tennessee Star that Carter’s revelations of confidential details about the House Ethics Committee meetings with individual lawmakers would likely be an ethics violation itself and that an investigation of Carter’s own actions may result.
The Tennessee Star has obtained a copy of an email sent by Ethics Chairman Hill to one of the legal staff for the Committee who was present for the individual meetings, Matthew King. The email dated May 24, 2019 sought confirmation of several facts from King regarding the meetings with individual members that occurred on May 13 and which had been the subject of news reports in the days that followed.
The email from Hill to King stated:
The Star has also obtained a copy of the response to Hill from King that was sent later that same day and which sharply contradicts the story that Carter has shared with various media outlets:
When Chairman King was asked about the email exchange by The Tennessee Star he confirmed the accuracy of the exchange and noted that he sought the information from one of the two attorneys present for the meetings, including the meeting with Rep. Mike Carter, because the news reports were in such stark contrast to what actually occurred.
“I wanted to confirm what actually occurred with the legal counsel for the Committee, and have shared the exchange with members of the Committee and other legislators to limit the confusion and misrepresentations about what took place and most importantly to assure them that nothing inappropriate or improper happened,” Hill said. “I and the legal counsel were seeking input from the Committee members in order to develop the opinion, not attempting to impose any version of facts on anyone. The email exchange confirms that and it speaks for itself.”
Casada has indicated that he will return from a planned vacation out of the country on June 3 and will proceed to determine a timeline for his resignation as Speaker. Carter announced on May 23 that he is seeking the House Speakership. Hill is also seeking the position himself.
– – –
Steve Gill is Political Editor of The Tennessee Star.