Rep. Brian Kelsey says the legislature is an "ethical cesspool." That's a news flash. And now, he's finding out what happens to a grandstanding backbencher who embarrasses his colleagues. Turning up the volume in the legislature's sexual harassment soap opera, House Democratic leader Gary Odom is calling for Kelsey to resign. Turns out, as we learned yesterday,
Kelsey's motives in filing an ethics complaint against House Speaker Kent Williams may not have been completely pure. Imagine that.
The day before he filed the complaint, Kelsey admits sending a text message to Williams that stated: "Tell Kent I'm willing to talk about reconciliation if he's willing to talk about chairman of the full committee."
Kelsey calls it a "peace offering" and insists he wasn't trying to make a deal. "I made a peace offering, because I knew that we were going to have to pass legislation this year, and that I was going to have to work with the speaker to make that happen. So I made a peace offering," he tells The Tennessean.
Kelsey says Democrats are trying to "browbeat" him for filing the complaint. "The legislature has been an ethical cesspool for a while, and I'm not going to quit filing ethics complaints when I feel that wrongs have been committed," he says.
Williams apparently didn't think the message was so harmless. His office says that "on advice of legal counsel," it was turned over "to the proper authorities." Odom calls it "an attempt to extort an appointed position" and says Kelsey should resign.
"He demanded a full committee chairmanship -- indicated that if that took place, it would resolve his differences with the speaker," Odom tells the Commercial Appeal.
"When that didn't happen, he filed a sexual harassment complaint about an incident in which he wasn't involved nor was a witness to."
More from Odom:
Recounting that Kelsey had called the dismissal of his complaint against Williams a "mockery of ethics," Odom says, "if he wants to see a mockery of ethics, he should look in the mirror."
"Any member who attempts to obtain a political appointment through extortion has committed a serious ethics violation and is unworthy of holding office," he says. Maybe Odom should file an ethics complaint.