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FBI Searching Legislative Office Of Former Tennessee House Speaker, Other Republicans

FBI agents leave the office of state Rep. Kent Calfee, R-Kingston, after executing a search warrant. The offices of at least two other GOP House members have also been searched.
Sergio Martínez-Beltrán / WPLN News
FBI agents leave the office of state Rep. Kent Calfee, R-Kingston, after executing a search warrant. The offices of at least two other GOP House members have also been searched.

 

FBI agents leave the office of state Rep. Kent Calfee, R-Kingston, after executing a search warrant. The offices of at least two other GOP House members have also been searched.
Credit Sergio Martínez-Beltrán / WPLN News
FBI agents leave the office of state Rep. Kent Calfee, R-Kingston, after executing a search warrant. The offices of at least two other GOP House members have also been searched.

FBI agents searched the legislative offices or homes of former house speaker Glen Casada and three other Republican lawmakers Friday morning. It is still unclear what prompted the search, but the House’s current speaker, Cameron Sexton, says those searched have been placed on administrative leave.

“Since becoming speaker, I was contacted by federal authorities regarding an ongoing investigation related to the former speaker’s office,” Sexton told reporters Friday in a press conference, though he did not specify when they first made contact. “I have been, and I will continue to be, in full cooperation with the authorities as they continue their investigation.”

“On the advice of both Ethics and Legal Counsel, I am placing everyone that was subject to the execution of today’s search warrants on administrative leave until further notice.”

Visibly shaken, Sexton said that these are friends and colleagues and that Friday’s events do not necessarily mean they are guilty. He said he has spoken to the governor, the lieutenant governor and the leaders of both parties about the situation.

“I will remain transparent and communicate as more becomes known throughout this process,” Sexton said. “I will also continue to work with the federal authorities, and I will encourage my colleagues to cooperate with them as well if they are asked to.”

The FBI searched the offices of state Reps. Robin Smith, R-Hixson; Rep. Kent Calfee, R-Kingston; and Casada, as well as the homes of Smith, Casada, and Todd Warner, R-Chapel Hill. Smith was elected to the state legislature in 2018 and served as chair of the Tennessee Republican Party in the late 2000s. Calfee has been a member of the Tennessee House since 2012. Warner was elected in November.

Sexton told reporters he doesn’t believe Calfee is part of the investigation.

Director of Legislative Administration Connie Ridley told WPLN News that three employees of the Tennessee House were placed on Administrative: Holt Whitt, interim chief of staff, and legislative assistants Nadine Korby and Carol Simpson.

Simpson is Casada’s assistant, while Korby is the assistant of Calfee.

Casada served as leader of the Tennessee House for seven months in 2019, resigning from that leadership position after the release of racist and sexist text threads that included him and a top aide. Last year, Casada paid a $10,500 fine for failing to account for campaign donations and expenditures.

His tenure as speaker also had earlier controversy. During the floor of the school voucher bill debate, Casada held the board open while he tried to convince lawmakers to vote in favor of it.

One lawmaker said Casada offered him a promotion in the Tennessee National Guard if he flipped his vote to a yes. The lawmaker did not.

Casada has not responded to request for comment.

This is a developing story reported by WPLN.

Copyright 2021 WKNO

Sergio Martínez-Beltrán is Nashville Public Radio’s political reporter. Prior to moving to Nashville, Sergio covered education for the Standard-Examiner newspaper in Ogden, Utah. He is a Puerto Rico native and his work has also appeared on NPR station WKAR, San Antonio Express-News, Inter News Service, GFR Media and WMIZ 1270 AM.
WPLN Staff