By Peter White
NASHVILLE, TN — On the eve of his forced departure as House Speaker, Glen Casada (R-Franklin) has been accused of trying to bribe a fellow lawmaker. On Monday, Democrats called for him to immediately resign from the legislature.
The allegations stem from a crucial vote April 23, when Casada tried to get Rep. John Mark Windle (D-Livingston) to vote for Governor Lee’s signature school voucher bill.
Windle voted against it but, according to NewsChannel5, that didn’t stop Casada from first dragging him out onto the State House balcony, offering him a promotion from Colonel to General in the Tennessee National Guard, and putting him on the phone with the Governor–twice.
Casada denies he tried to bribe Windle with the promise of a promotion. “That power belongs solely to the governor,” Casada said. But an unnamed lawmaker overheard the offer and Windle confirmed it. “I voted against the bill as a matter of principle, and that vote decision did not change,” Windle said.
It was a dramatic scene on Capitol Hill that April day. Lee’s first major piece of legislation was stuck in a 49-49 tie. It would have failed but at the last minute Casada managed to get Rep. Jason Zachary (R-Knoxville) to change his vote.
As the Tribune reported at the time, Zachary was against the school voucher bill, but when Casada assured him Knox County could drop out of the program, he was persuaded to change his vote. The measure passed 50-48. Such wheeling and dealing is probably not illegal but Democratic lawmakers say offering Windle a promotion definitely was.
“That’s not horse-trading, that’s bribery,” said Rep. Mike Stewart (D-Nashville).
“We have a no-show job that was passed which several former speakers across the country are in federal prison for. And now we have the allegation of selling stars for promotion in the Tennessee National Guard. I don’t know how many crimes need to occur,” said Rep. Bo Mitchell (D-Nashville).
Mitchell and Stewart want the FBI and District Attorney General Glenn Funk to investigate Casada but neither have done so yet. Funk’s office did not respond to a request for comment.
Stewart is filing a public records request for all of the Lee administration’s text messages, emails and other communications during the months Republicans were trying to push the voucher bill through the legislature.
Casada is facing scrutiny from the Registry of Election Finance regarding his campaign Its probe is expected to begin at its upcoming August meeting. Casada has $560,000 from his Political action Committee (PAC) and his campaign committee.
Regarding the school voucher vote in April, Casada held the vote board open for half an hour and the bill should have failed at that point.
“Under our rules a call for the question is taken. It’s not call for the question then we’re going to have negotiation and bribery on the balcony until I get enough votes,” said Mitchell.
“I don’t believe there’s any precedent for a bill failing in this way and then the board being held open until votes can be accumulated,” Stewart said.
“I think there’s probably a hundred percent chance the Constitutional issues will be raised in court but who’s going to do that, whether it’s a city or certain advocacy groups, I don’t know,” Stewart said.