House clerk accused of abusive behavior

A Republican lawmaker is calling for an investigation into allegations that House Clerk Joe McCord made abusive comments to a woman staffer and raised his middle finger at her 2-year-old granddaughter when she visited House Speaker Beth Harwell’s office.

Further from The Tennessean:

In a letter emailed to The Tennessean late Tuesday night, Rep. Billy Spivey, R-Lewisburg, called for an immediate investigation into what a staffer described as mental and emotional abuses perpetrated by House Clerk Joe McCord against a Legislative Plaza employee over “an extended period of time.”

When reached Wednesday morning, McCord said he wanted to talk to Connie Ridley, director of legislative administration, before speaking with The Tennessean. Ridley and Harwell are also accused of wrongdoing in the report.

The allegation from a fellow Republican comes as Harwell and House leadership continues to stave off criticism for their handling of the allegations of harassment by now-expelled lawmaker Jeremy Durham.

House Republican Caucus Chairman Glen Casada, R-Franklin, said he hadn’t reviewed Spivey’s report as of early Wednesday morning. After The Tennessean described the allegations in the report, Casada said they surprised him.

“I’ve known Joe McCord for 16 years, and I’ve never seen that behavior exhibited in a malicious way, in a way that was meant to be demeaning. That’s just not the Joe McCord I know,” Casada said.

” A lot of people will kid in a way that, it’s just a manner of joking. It’s not actually the emotion of anger, it’s just the way of kidding.”

The allegation from a fellow Republican comes as Harwell and House leadership continues to stave off criticism for their handling of the allegations of harassment by now-expelled lawmaker Jeremy Durham.

Spivey’s letter contained a second-hand account of incidents involving a woman only known as Staffer 1.

“As a staffer I can say first hand that we live (in) constant fear of being fired and retaliation from those in leadership,” the person wrote. “This is one of the reasons I’m submitting this to you. All proper avenues have been exhausted and have resulted in no administrative action.”

In her account, the complainant said that Staffer 1 has regularly “experienced emotional and mental abuse” from McCord.

The complainant said McCord has consistently called Staffer 1 an “a——” and “b—-” and the apex of his abuse came last year during the annual Ag Day at the capitol.

It was on that day that Staffer 1’s 2-year-old granddaugther visited her at the capitol. After McCord asked the staffer who the little girl was and her age, he allegedly responded by looking at the granddaughter and “flipping her his middle finger.”

…”He looked at Staffer 1’s granddaughter while flipping her the bird and said ‘you better remember this.'”

The staffer left the room and later was crying in the bathroom.

The complainant said Staffer 1 eventually discussed the alleged abuse with Harwell, her chief of staff, Scott Gilmer, director of legislative administration Connie Ridley and “an attorney.”

Ridley allegedly told the staffer that she “could go work for one of the Members of the black caucus but would have to take a demotion and pay cut.”

“At some point Staffer 1 discussed the office environment with Speaker Harwell,” the complainant concluded. “Speaker Harwell instead listened to Staffer 1’s concerns but never took any disciplinary or official action against Joe McCord.