NASHVILLE - While state Rep. Mike Carter, R-Ooltewah, has called on embattled Republican House Speaker Glen Casada to resign amid a text messaging scandal, another Hamilton County legislator, Rep. Robin Smith, R-Hixson, is willing to consider other actions, including a no-confidence or a formal censure of the Williamson County Republican.
And that's not the only difference between the two lawmakers, both of whom serve on the Ethics Committee, regarding Casada, who faces a vote of no confidence Monday from the 73-member GOP Caucus.
In interviews with and statements to the Times Free Press last week, the lawmakers described different experiences when they separately met last Monday with Deputy Speaker Matthew Hill, R-Jonesborough, the panel's chairman.
That was on a proposed draft ethics opinion discussed by Hill and two staff attorneys with them, as well as two Democrats earlier. The opinion was sought by Casada.
Carter charged in a statement made first to the Times Free Press and later sent as a letter to the 73-member GOP Caucus that he perceived the draft as an effort by Casada to "rig and predetermine" the final report of the misogynistic and racist text messaging scandal involving the speaker and a former top aide.
It sought to exonerate Casada, said Carter, an attorney and former judge, telling a reporter he couldn't divulge exact details based on confidentiality provisions in the ethics panel's procedures.
In his statement, Carter said he would sign the draft if Casada swore under oath "the facts stated were true and correct." After being refused, Carter said, he told the attorneys he would sign it if he could add a provision stating the facts "appear to be divergent from facts in the public record." He said he was told he could do that, but a later full Ethics Committee hearing was cancelled.
Carter later said he wasn't faulting Hill.
Smith also said she couldn't discuss specifics but described being presented with two documents, one which represented the draft opinion and the other what she described as "I guess" the speaker's account.
"At no time was it ever presented to me as a document that needed to be signed at the moment," she said. "Instead, I read over it; I was offered the opportunity to add any edits that I saw that were missing or any concerns" that would be addressed when the full committee met.
Casada has publicly stated he was seeking the opinion "concerning my actions taken relative to the resignation" of his former chief of staff Cade Cothren, who resigned May 6 amid a furor over leaked lewd and racist texts in a group-text chain between himself, Casada and an unidentified man said to be a former political consultant.
After initially questioning the texts' authenticity, he acknowledged responding to three of the sexually oriented texts and apologized. He did not respond to the racist text, according to news accounts.
The GOP Caucus this afternoon is considering a no-confidence motion on Casada.
Smith, a former Tennessee Republican Party chairwoman, said she would consider anything that came before the caucus.
Asked about a censure motion some believe will be offered, Smith said she is not an attorney, judge or a master of law, but a censure "is the strongest disapproval that can be formally assigned."
In a separate interview, Carter charged Casada "is trying to get the members to agree to censure him as his only punishment."
Smith said the "behaviors portrayed in those texts were absolutely inappropriate" and even "horrifying," adding that "objectifying a woman or another human" regarding race "is always wrong."
"Those happened between the former chief of staff and a third person identified as a disgruntled" person she described as a former political worker.
Noting she has done political consulting work for the Republican Caucus in the past, Smith said, "I never saw this kind of behavior from our speaker, ever. Never experienced it, never saw it third-hand."
Contact Andy Sher at firstname.lastname@example.org or 615-255-0550. Follow him on Twitter @AndySher1.
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