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.