I recently had to edit my book to remove former Tennessee state representative Scotty Campbell’s endorsement. About a month ago, his sexual harassment of one female intern in particular broke in the news, and only after it became public, presumably by the victim and her supporters, was Campbell forced to resign. Due to redistricting Rep. Campbell was no longer my representative, but the endorsement of my book that he made when he was my representative proved extremely problematic. Campbell’s outrageous and disturbing behavior toward women, his abuse of power, and his violation of trust as an elected representative of the people were directly antithetical to all that I wrote about in my book Fighting for Justice: Religious Fraud, Mental Illness, and the Collapse of Law & Order. I worked with my publisher recently to remove all traces of Campbell’s endorsement from my book.
As troubling as Campbell’s behavior was, what is even more disturbing is how the male-dominated Tennessee legislature mishandled his violation of the Tennessee General Assembly’s workplace harassment policy, a violation confirmed by the legislature’s ethics subcommittee. Campbell’s primary victim, a young female intern, was one of his neighbors in the apartment complex where many legislators and interns live while the legislature is in session. Once the intern filed her complaint of harassment against Campbell, efforts were made by legislative administrators to clean up Campbell’s mess as quietly as possible. Instead of demanding Campbell remove himself from the apartment complex at his own expense, Director of Legislative Administration Connie Ridley paid by credit card close to $10,000 to break the victim’s rental agreement, move the victim out of her apartment, pay for the victim to stay in a hotel, and pay to move the victim’s furniture to another location. All at taxpayers’ expense! Ridley also asked the victim not to tell anyone about Campbell’s sexual harassment violations. Isn’t that ever so ethical?!
House Speaker Cameron Sexton pulled a Sergeant Schultz on everyone by claiming he knew nothing about all the taxpayer dollars used to move the victim, and he tried to pan off this irresponsible, inexcusable, and utterly unethical tactic onto the ethics subcommittee. Once the victim filed her sexual harassment complaint against Campbell it became House Speaker Sexton’s duty and responsibility to get Campbell — not the victim — out of the legislature and out of the apartment complex, at Campbell’s own expense.
The intern was quoted as saying that although she appreciated the assistance to get her away from Campbell, “it feels as if they are trying to buy my silence.” Indeed. So, not only did former state representative Scotty Campbell violate everyone’s trust, but the violations of public trust extend to House Speaker Cameron Sexton, Director of Legislative Administration Connie Ridley, and the entirety of the legislature’s ethics subcommittee. And politicians wonder why so few people even bother to vote.
Quoting from Jason Vaughn, Media Coordinator for The Tennessee Conservative, May 3, 2023:
“The House Democratic Caucus released the following statement regarding the expenses:
‘The GOP supermajority believes in accountability for everyone – except themselves. Now, we learn they reportedly spent thousands of taxpayer dollars as a direct result of another embarrassing scandal involving a member of their leadership team.
‘Questions still requiring answers are: Who authorized these expenditures? Why were they not disclosed earlier? Were appropriate steps taken to protect the victim from further harm? Would earlier public disclosure of the conduct have better protected the victim and/or other women from exposure to a known threat to their safety?
‘Tennesseans deserve a full explanation of this latest abuse of power.’”
Tennessee’s citizens deserve better than this display of unethical behavior by our elected officials and legislative administrators. Tennessee taxpayers deserve to have former state representative Scotty Campbell reimburse us for the expense our legislators unethically paid out as hush money to his victim.