Tennessee Legislator Allegedly Harassed by Colleague

Apparently, not even the powerful are immune from having to deal with inappropriate workplace conduct.

According to a 2007 memo which was recently provided to the press, in April 2007, a Tennessee legislator approached two female legislators and told one of them she was beautiful and that he’d “give [her] a week’s pay just to see [her] naked.” He also allegedly hugged her tightly from behind, put his face close to hers, and said, “Have a nice weekend.” (Apparently someone was taking the phrase “courting the vote” too literally.)

The female legislator, Rep. Susan Lynn, allegedly confronted Rep. Kent Williams about his behavior. When she felt he was not taking her seriously, she took the complaint to the then-Speaker of the House. Unbeknownst to Lynn, the speaker drafted a memo. Lynn says she did not intend to make the claims public at any time: while his conduct was serious, “it didn’t rise to the level of requiring punishment. I just thought I’d go to my leader and help this freshman (Williams) understand that we treat each other with a certain professional decorum.”

Rather, it was political rivals of Williams who released the memo to the press and brought an ethics claim against him, a day after Williams was elected as Speaker of the House. Lynn said she begged them not to use the allegations against Williams. Williams, in turn, denied harassing anyone.

The House Ethics Committee decided to drop the hot potato, deciding today that it doesn’t have the authority to hear a sexual harassment complaint. Rep. Lynn, meanwhile, was briefly admitted to the hospital for stress-related symptoms. She has suggested changes to the Legislature’s anti-harassment policy.

And before you think “partisan politics,” all the players here are from the same party (Republican). Then again, partisan politics still may be at play in the release of the information; Williams angered some of his colleagues when he crossed over to gain Democratic support for the speaker position.

Here’s an article from the Chattanoogan.com.

And an

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