Tag Archives: Kent Williams

Harwell’s first try at a sexual harassment review flopped

Back in 2009, the House Ethics Committee approved a motion calling for review of the Legislature’s policy on sexual harassment, reports The Tennessean after a review of taped recordings of the committee’s proceedings. But nothing ever happened.

The motion was made by Rep. Beth Harwell, who now as House speaker has recently set up a committee to review sexual policy – along with a separate panel to review the doings of Rep. Jeremy Durham, R-Franklin, whose alleged behavior has been characterized as sexual harassment.

At the time, then-Rep. Brian Kelsey had filed what amounted to a sexual harassment complaint against then-Speaker Kent Williams with the committee. (Note: Williams allegedly told Rep. Susan Lynn, R-Mount Juliet, he would like to see without her clothes on. See somewhat related prior post HERE)

During the January 2009 hearing, (legislative attorney Doug) Himes said it would be inappropriate for the ethics committee to take up a sexual harassment complaint, since it had never done so before and there was a sexual harassment complaint process already established through legislative human resources.

Harwell agreed, noting “the offended at the time chose not to file a formal complaint,” and made the motion to dismiss Kelsey’s complaint from the committee.

Immediately after that vote though, Harwell made another motion to examine the sexual harassment policy.

The committee ultimately approved the motion, adding a provision that Democratic and Republican leadership each appoint a lawmaker and staff member to work with Himes and legislative administration official Connie Ridley on the committee.

During discussion of the motion, former Rep. Mark Maddox, D-Dresden, asked whether Harwell wanted staff attorneys to review the sexual harassment policy and develop a procedure for complaints to be heard.

“That is correct, and I think there are some other issues that need to be addressed as well. And so for that reason I think this is an important move,” Harwell said.

That committee never met, Himes said Wednesday.

“As far as I know, the appointments were never made,” Himes said Wednesday, after checking notes he still had from the meeting.

Then-House Republican Leader Jason Mumpower said to the best of his knowledge, he didn’t remember being asked to appoint anyone to the committee.

Former House Democratic Leader Gary Odom, D-Nashville, said he remembered that legislative human resources staff members were asked to report back with information and recommendations about the sexual harassment policy, but he didn’t recall any such report taking place.

“I don’t recall the ethics committee dealing with that issue again,” Odom said.

House Republican Caucus Chairman Glen Casada, who served in the same role at the time, said he was never approached about any appointment to any sexual harassment committee.

“In all honesty, this was the first time this was brought to my attention,” Casada said Wednesday.

Rep. Williams pays $100 to replace House floor microphone broken in angry moment

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Former House Speaker Kent Williams said Tuesday he paid $100 to replace a microphone that he tossed aside when his comments were cut off last week.

An offer to prepay another $100 to cover any future damage was turned down, he said.

Williams, an independent from Elizabethton, threw the microphone in anger when he wasn’t allowed to explain his reasons for opposing a bill to allow supermarket wine sales in Tennessee after the chamber passed the bill Thursday.

House Clerk Joe McCord announced at the end of Monday night’s floor session that the chamber’s policies require members to replace or repair any damaged property. For example, former Rep. Julia Hurley was required to pay for her desk to be refinished in 2011 after she carved her initials into it.

Williams was House speaker from 2009 to 2011. He is retiring from the Legislature this year and running for Carter County mayor.

He said Tuesday that he was surprised the microphone broke. The House said there were several options for replacing the microphone, ranging from $89 to $135.

“I said, ‘Let me pay you for two,’ and they wouldn’t let me,” he said.

McCord laughed off Williams’ offer to “keep one in reserve.”

“We operated strictly on a pay-as-you-go basis,” McCord said.

Note: From TNReport, a video of Williams tossing the microphone:

Judy Veeneman running to succeed her brother, Kent Williams

Elizabethton real estate broker Judy Veeneman will seek the Republican nomination to succeed her brother, former House Speaker Kent Williams, in representing state House District 4.

Veeneman announced her candidacy Friday at two events, one in Elizabethton and the other in Erwin. House District 4 includes all of Unicoi County and most of Carter County.

“I want to continue building on the initiative to make Tennessee’s education system one of the best in the country,” Veeneman said in an announcement statement. “I want to represent all the people in my district regardless of party affiliation and I plan to work hard to bring more jobs to our state. I will be a pro-active representative in an effort to see Tennessee continue to be a great place to live and work.”

Her brother announced earlier that he will not seek reelection to the House and instead will run for Carter County mayor.

Williams was elected House speaker in 2009 by voting for himself in the House floor vote with united support from all 49 Democrats then serving. That gave him a 50-49 majority to defeat the Republican nominee, then-Rep. Jason Mumpower Williams, elected as a Republican, was subsequently ousted as a member of the Republican party.

Veeneman is a past president of the Carter County Republican Women’s Club and has otherwise been active as a volunteer in political campaigns of various Republicans and her brother.

The Elizabethton Star did a profile story on Veeneman last year, available HERE and excerpted below, following a campaign biography.

Here’s Veeneman’s biography as prepared by her campaign:

In announcing her candidacy for State Representative for the 4th District in East Tennessee, Judy Veeneman continues a lifelong commitment of service to her community and its citizens. Judy was born January 27, 1955, in Carter County, Tennessee. From an early age her parents, June Davis Williams and the late Roby Williams, instilled a strong work ethic in Judy and her siblings. At age 14, Judy had her first job with the Carter County Head Start Program.
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Former House Speaker Kent Williams leaving Legislature; Will run for Carter County Mayor

By Erik Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — State Rep. Kent Williams, whose 2009 election as House speaker shocked and infuriated fellow Republicans, announced Thursday he won’t seek a fifth term to instead run for Carter County mayor next year.

Republicans were still giddy from gaining their first majority in the state House since Reconstruction in the 2008 elections when the House convened for its leadership vote the following January.

But a one-seat advantage in the 99-seat chamber proved the GOP’s undoing, when all 49 Democrats banded together with Williams to elect the little-known restaurant owner from Elizabethton as speaker.

The chamber packed with Republican supporters erupted after Williams cast the deciding vote for himself, and some shouted “traitor” and “Judas” as he made his way forward from his seat. Armed state troopers came in to flank the speaker’s podium as Williams was sworn in.

Williams said in a phone interview Thursday that he wouldn’t have done anything differently, despite the denunciations from fellow Republican in the House following his election as speaker, and later being thrown out of the state GOP for the maneuver.

“People who actually booed when I was elected speaker, we’ve become really good friends — a lot of them understand, even though they don’t’ agree,” he said. “We’ve been able to get past all that and work together.

“I have no regrets whatsoever,” he said.
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Speaker Williams Changing Committee Membership

House Speaker Kent Williams says he’s changing committee assignments of two state representatives at their request and may change others – even though there has been no request.
Reps. Mike Bell, R-Riceville, and Donna Rowland, R-Murfreesboro, are basically swapping places.
Bell is being moved from the Consumer and Employee Affairs Committee to the Conservation and Environment Committee. Rowland, in turn, will be shifted from the Conservation and Environment Committee to the Consumer and Employee Affairs Committee.
Williams says he generally appoints committee members to the panels they prefer. His spokesman, Scott Campbell, says Bell and Rowland apparently both wrote “C&E” – an abbreviation that could be interpreted to mean either committee — on their requests.
That somehow got interpreted the wrong way, apparently by leadership who passed along their requests and worked with Williams in making appointments, Williams said.
After learning of the mistake recently, the speaker said he agreed to make the switch.
At the same time, Williams said during a brief interview that he is eyeing the makeup of other committees with the intention of making a few changes that haven’t been requested. He declined to name the legislators who might be involved.
He said the changes would be aimed at taking advantage of “expertise” in one area or another that a given legislator has demonstrated or the fact that “some members work a little harder than others.”
Williams had previously indicated he might change some committee or subcommittee chairs after a review of video tapes of panel meetings during the last session, but indicated he now does not believe that will be necessary.
He will still have at least one new subcommittee chairman to select.
The resignation of Rep. Brian Kelsey, R-Germantown, who is running for the Senate, will leave a House Judiciary Committee subcommittee chair vacant. Kelsey’s successor in his House seat will be chosen in a January special election.
(Note: Scott Campbell’s title has been corrected from earlier posting)

GOP Legislator Notes: Williams Starts a PAC, Rusty Eats Crow, Mumpower Will Try Again, Etc.Etc.

Kent, K-PAC and 32 Republicans
Thirty Republican state representatives and two state senators have signed up to help House Speaker Kent Williams launch a new political action committee with a Knoxville fundraiser.
Williams, who is officially regarded as a non-Republican by the state GOP party organization, said he decided to establish a PAC because “I want to help some colleagues get re-elected” by donating to their campaigns.
All Republicans? Yes, he said, “certainly for now.”
He said the goal for the PAC is to raise and donate $80,000 to $100,000 by election day, 2010.
The House speaker said he recently donated a total of about $7,500 to Republican causes from his own re-election campaign fund — $1,000 to Pat Marsh of Shelbyville with the rest split between PACs controlled by Reps. Beth Harwell, R-Nashville, and Steve McDaniel, R-Parkers Crossroads.
The new political financing entity will be named “K-PAC,” Williams said. (Maybe without the hyphen.) The paperwork to launch it had not been filed as of Friday with the Bureau of Ethics and Campaign Finance, according to a spokeswoman.
The fundraiser is scheduled Nov. 6 in Knoxville, tentatively at the Downtown Brewery and Grill on Gay Street, though Rep. Joe McCord – whose family owns the establishment — said the location might be changed,

A Rusty Apology
The two senators signed up for the fundraiser are Sens. Rusty Crowe, R-Johnson City, and Doug Overbey, R-Maryville, Williams said.
In Crowe’s case, the move came with an apology for his somewhat strident backing Williams’ opponent in the 2008 Republican House primary election, Jerome Cochran. Crowe’s Senate district includes Carter County, Williams’ home turf.
“I talked with Kent and told him I shouldn’t have gotten involved in someone else’s race,” said Crowe in brief interview last week. “I apologized… I think he understands and it’s water under the bridge.”

The House K-PAC 30
The 30 representatives helping host the fundraiser comprise a very solid majority of the 49 members of the House Republican Caucus. Williams said the 30 is virtually all who were asked to participate by lead organizers, including McCord, Rep. Dale Ford of Jonesborough, Rep. Frank Niceley of Strawberry Plains and political activists Mike Alder and Susan Richardson Williams, a former state party chairman.
On the list of Williams PAC supporters is House GOP Caucus Chairman Glen Casada of College Grove.
Missing is House Republican Leader Jason Mumpower, the GOP nominee for House speaker who was defeated by Williams in January when 49 Democrats voted with Williams.
Casada said Williams told him the PAC money would go to defend Republican seats and “we all need to support that effort” regardless of Williams status with the state Republican party.
Casada said he personally believes Williams should not be allowed to return as a Republican for a two-year period, though a return could be appropriate then if Williams accepts conditions – namely that he will vote for GOP nominees in the future.
Asked if he was interested in running for higher House Republican office — say leader or speaker — Casada demurred by saying his only focus for now is simply on building the party’s majority in the House. But he didn’t say no.

Mumpower: Running everywhere
“I wasn’t asked,” said Mumpower when questioned about not appearing on the K-PAC supporter list. “I don’t know why I wasn’t. I would have considered it… If he’s committed to using that money to help Republicans, then I’m glad he’s doing it.”
Mumpower also said that speculation he may cut back on legislative efforts – by some accounts to take a position with Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey’s gubernatorial campaign — is unfounded.
“Anything you’ve heard is rumor. None of that is true,” he said.
Specifically, Mumpower said he plans to seek reelection to his House seat next year, then seek reelection as House Republican leader and, if the GOP has a majority, try again to be elected speaker.
The 30 and a Hat Tip
Here’s a list of Republican House members participating in the K-PAC kickoff, compliments of Frank Cagle, who recently penned a piece on the plan with his usual insightful commentary (though apparently without talking to Mumpower).

The Republican House members who are on the host committee include: Niceley, Harry Brooks, Ryan Haynes, Bill Dunn, David Hawk, Matt Hill, Mike Harrison, Joe McCord, Richard Montgomery, Dale Ford, Bob Ramsey, Steve McDaniel, Dennis Roach, Curry Todd, Jimmy Eldridge, Curtis Halford, Jim Coley, Ron Lollar, Kevin Brooks, Vince Dean, Chad Faulkner, Beth Harwell, Philip Johnson, Eric Swafford, Charles Sargent, Steve McManus, Jim Cobb, Judd Matheny, Eric Watson, and Glen Casada

Incidentally, in a hallway interview/conversation last week, Hawk said that he had rather informally been asked by Williams — while sitting beside the speaker at a recent event — whether he would like to participate in the PAC kickoff and nodded affirmatively, with a, “Well, yeah, I guess.” Next he knew of it, he said, was seeing Cagle’s article. But, Hawk said, he’s not objecting to the listing. Just a bit of consternation.

Speaker Kent Williams: Tony Shipley “Thinks He Can Push People Around”



 House Speaker Kent Williams says Rep. Tony Shipley, R-Kingsport, is “arrogant” and “thinks he can push people around,” according to a Northeast Tennessee TV report.

The comments came in response to Shipley saying that the House speaker urged him to support the state budget and warning there would be no road projects in his district if Shipley voted no. Shipley was one of 12 representatives voting against the budget, which mostly followed Gov. Phil Bredesen’s wishes.

From the article:

 “I was told {by Williams} if I didn’t vote for the budget, I wouldn’t get my roads,” Shipley said.

“I think the speaker {sic} was trying to give me some advice.  I didn’t like his advice, and I don’t really appreciate his advice,” Shipley said.  “But I don’t think he was being malicious in any way.”

Williams said Shipley took his words out of context.  “I did have a conversation with Tony Shipley, and told him ‘When you vote against the budget, you’re voting against everything,'” he said.

“I don’t have any say in what road projects get built, and {Transportation Commissioner} Gerald Nicely would not play favorites,” Williams said.

Williams said Shipley was unwilling to compromise.  He added, “{Shipley’s} arrogant.  He thinks he can push people around, and things don’t work that way.  You have to work with both sides.