A Tennessee state representative resigned abruptly for an ethical violation that became public two weeks ago, two weeks after he supported fellow Republicans in ousting two Black Democratic legislators for protesting gun control on the state House floor.
Rep. Scotty Campbell, vice chair of the House Republican Caucus, violated the Legislature’s workplace harassment and discrimination policy. The brief conclusions document issued by the Ethics Subcommittee in late March did not include specifics and stated that no more material would be disclosed.
Campbell resigned just hours after a Nashville TV station asked about s*xual harassment charges involving legislative interns.
Campbell declined to provide a detailed account of what happened. Asked by WTVF-TV on Thursday about the ethics panel’s decision, Campbell said, “I had consensual, ad*lt conversations with two ad*lts off the property.”
“If I choose to talk to any intern in the future, it will be recorded,” Campbell said.
According to a letter to colleagues legislators, the Mountain City lawmaker resigned around six hours after being questioned by the broadcaster.
WTVF-TV was the first to report on the Ethics Subcommittee’s conclusion, which was released in a March 29 memo addressed to Republican House Speaker Cameron S*xton.
“I can’t determine exactly when we saw it (the letter),” S*xton 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 investigation, Campbell remained in office and voted to remove Reps. Justin Jones and Justin Pearson on April 6. They were later reinstalled. Campbell also voted to eject Democratic Rep. Gloria Johnson, who was a single vote away from being expelled.
Jones, Pearson, and Johnson were targeted for expulsion in connection with the March 30 protest at the front of the House floor, in which hundreds of activists jammed the Capitol to demand gun-control legislation.
Johnson called Campbell’s ethics violation “horrendous” in a tweet Thursday afternoon. “Yet if you talk without permission, you get expulsion resolutions,” she added.
Expulsions are relatively unusual in Tennessee and are regarded as drastic measures. Republicans have come under fire for how they have chosen to wield, or not wield, power.
Campbell’s resignation comes at the end of a months-long legislative session. Republican congressional leaders are attempting to complete their work by the end of the week.
In 2019, lawmakers were pressed to expel former Republican Rep. David Byrd after he was accused of s*xual misconduct stretching back to his time as a high school basketball coach three decades earlier.
At the time, S*xton said it was up to Byrd to decide whether he should continue in the Legislature.
“You have to balance the will of the voters and overturning the will of the voters,” S*xton told WPLN in 2019, noting the allegations from 30 years earlier. Byrd has chosen not to seek reelection in 2022.
Meanwhile, former Democratic Rep. Rick Staples of Knoxville resigned as a leader in 2019 after the same ethics commission found him to have violated the Legislature’s s*xual harassment policy.
Expulsions have frequently been based on a criminal conviction. Convicted criminals are barred from public office under Tennessee law and the state constitution.
The last time a state legislator was removed from the House was in 2016 when the chamber voted 70-to-2 to remove Republican Rep. Jeremy Durham after an attorney general’s inquiry revealed complaints of inappropriate s*xual contact with at least 22 women during his four years in office.
In 2017, a Republican House member resigned after being accused of unwanted s*xual contact with a lady during a congressional event. Former Rep. Mark Lovell rejected the claims before leaving. Instead, he stated that the elected job was more demanding than he anticipated and needed time to focus on his business and family.
Meanwhile, former Republican Rep. Glen Casada became speaker in 2019 and resigned after only a few months when it was revealed that he and his then-chief of staff had exchanged s*xually explicit text messages about women years before. But he kept his seat and was re-elected as an MP in 2020 but did not run for re-election in 2022. The texting controversy cost the former chief of staff his parliamentary post.