Thursday, January 29, 2009

It's Payback Time: Democrats Going After Rep. Brian Kelsey

Posted By on Thu, Jan 29, 2009 at 4:53 PM

click to enlarge briankelsey.jpg
They're pulling out the long knives at the legislature. It's OK for Rep. Brian Kelsey to stage little publicity stunts to embarrass his colleagues, collecting cigarette butts in the legislative garage or bringing bacon to the House floor. But when he starts dredging up sexual harassment complaints, hey, that's serious.

First, Rep. Mike Turner accused Kelsey of making a nervous wreck out of Rep. Susan Lynn by filing an ethics complaint against House Speaker Kent Williams based on his supposed sexual harassment of her.

"Susan Lynn is in the hospital [Wednesday], and in my opinion, I think Brian Kelsey put her in there and I think his behavior is terrible," Turner told Channel 2.  "I think it's sour grapes."

Now, Turner and House Democratic leader Gary Odom say Kelsey offered to lay off Williams in exchange for a committee  chairmanship.

Update: Kelsey admits he sent the following text message:
"Tell Kent I'm willing to talk about reconciliation if he's willing to talk about chairman of the full committee." But he denies it means what you're thinking it means. Kelsey's statement after the jump:
"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."
 

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