Two weeks after he joined other Republicans in removing two Black Democratic legislators for demonstrating in favor of gun control on the state House floor, a state lawmaker in Tennessee abruptly resigned due to an ethics violation that became public on Thursday.
The House Republican Caucus vice chair, Rep. Scotty Campbell, engaged in workplace harassment and discrimination. No specifics were provided in the brief Ethics Subcommittee conclusions document from late March, and it was stated that no additional material would be made public.
Campbell resigned a few hours after being approached by a Nashville TV station over claims of se*ual harassment against congressional interns.
Campbell opted not to give a thorough account of what transpired. When asked about the ethics panel’s choice by WTVF-TV on Thursday, Campbell responded, “I had consensual, adult conversations with two adults off property.”
“If I choose to talk to any intern in the future, it will be recorded,” Campbell added.
According to a letter to fellow lawmakers, the Mountain City congressman announced his resignation with immediate effect around six hours after the broadcaster questioned him.
The Ethics Subcommittee published its conclusion in a letter d@ted March 29 written to Republican House Speaker Cameron Sexton, but WTVF-TV was the first to report on it.
“I can’t determine exactly when we saw it (the letter),” Sexton told reporters Thursday. “But, the determination was the subcommittee. The speaker has no role in putting out any kind of corrective action. That comes from the subcommittee.”
Following the ethics finding, Campbell continued in office and voted on April 6 to remove Representatives Justin Jones and Justin Pearson. Since then, they have been restored. Campbell additionally voted to dismiss Democratic Rep. Gloria Johnson, who had just avoided being expelled.
For the March 30 demonstration at the front of the House floor, where hundreds of protesters filled the Capitol to demand the passage of gun-control laws, Jones, Pearson, and Johnson were targeted for expulsion.
Johnson referred to Campbell’s ethical transgression as “horrendous” in a tweet posted on Thursday afternoon.
“Yet if you talk without permission, you get expulsion resolutions,” she added.
This is horrendous, yet if you talk without permission, you get expulsion resolutions. https://t.co/ECxd2YypQu
— Rep. Gloria Johnson (@VoteGloriaJ) April 20, 2023
Expulsions are incredibly uncommon and are viewed as unusual actions in Tennessee. Republicans have come under fire for their decisions over how to exercise or not exercise power.
The months-long legislative session is nearing its conclusion when Campbell steps down. The goal of the GOP legislative leaders is to complete their job by the end of the week.
After facing allegations of se*ual misconduct stretching back to when he was a high school basketball coach three decades ago, former Republican Rep. David Byrd was pressured to resign in 2019.
At the time, Sexton stated that Byrd would have to make the decision on his future in the Legislature.
“You have to balance the will of the voters and overturning the will of the voters,” Sexton told WPLN in 2019, noting the allegations from 30 years earlier.
Byrd made the decision not to seek reelection in 2022.
In contrast, the same ethics commission ruled that former Democratic Rep. Rick Staples of Knoxville had violated the Legislature’s code against se*ual harassment. Staples later resigned from a leadership post.
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Expulsions have frequently been motivated by a criminal conviction. Convicted criminals are ineligible to hold public office under Tennessee’s state law and constitution.
The last time state legislators removed a member of the House was in 2016 when the chamber voted 70 to 2 to dismiss Republican Rep. Jeremy Durham following an investigation by the attorney general that revealed complaints of inappropriate se*ual contact with at least 22 women during his four years in office.
In 2017, a Republican House member accused of making unwanted se*ual contact with a lady at a parliamentary event resigned. The then-Rep refuted the accusations.
Mark Lovell before he left. Instead, he claimed that the elected office was more demanding than anticipated and needed time for his family, career, and personal interests.
Glen Casada, a Republican who had previously served as a congressman, was elected speaker in 2019 but abruptly resigned after learning that he and his then-chief of staff had texted about women in a se*ually explicit manner years before.
However, he remained in office and was re-elected as a lawmaker in 2020. He then chose not to run for re-election in 2022. The texting controversy cost the former chief of staff his parliamentary position.
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