Among other revelations this week, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation has announced plans to begin an investigation into allegations that Cothren attempted to frame Nashville activist Justin Jones by altering an email to make it seem like he violated a court order.
Among other accusations, Cothren also had a history of sending sexually explicit text messages and making inappropriate advances toward former interns, lobbyists and campaign staffers. Some of those text messages were sent to Casada, who replied in turn. He has also been accused of making racist statements, using cocaine in the legislative offices, and spying on committee meeting rooms during non-business sessions.
As these revelations were disclosed, Casada initially stood by his chief of staff, accusing the news of fabricating the story. Since the story has been proven true, however, Cothren has resigned his position and both he and Casada have issued apologies, with the House speaker saying he takes “complete ownership” of the text messages involving inappropriate comments about women.
How are House Republicans reacting to the scandal?
Deputy House Speaker Matthew Hill, Micah Van Huss and Bud Hulsey all indicated Wednesday they would continue to support Casada as the House leader, while and David Hawk were swift to call for his resignation, as was his immediate successor, Rep. Bill Dunn of Knoxville.
Rep. John Holsclaw of Elizabethton deferred making a determination on Casada’s future until more facts are known. Reps. Timothy Hill and John Crawford could not be reached for comment.
As the No. 3 person in line for the speakership, Hill said the House Ethics Committee, on which he serves as chairman, would meet next week to investigate Casada’s handling of the matter.
Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., declined Thursday to weigh in on Casada, saying it was a matter for “the House Republican Caucus and the people of his district who elected him.”
On Tuesday, officials from BrightRidge, the Tennessee Valley Authority and Silicon Ranch Corp. ceremonially “flipped the switch” on a new 40-acre, 5-megawatt solar farm in Telford. The 41,760 solar panels at the facility became operational in January, and can produce enough energy to power more than 500 homes annually.
BrightRidge officials said 87% of the facility’s community solar production has been allocated to subscribing commercial and residential customers, as the demand for renewable energy is growing among the utility’s customers. The solar panels, which electronically track the sun throughout the day, are located off Miller Road between Jonesborough and Telford. A transmission line has been established to Tenn. Highway 34.
The facility, which is owned and operated by Nashville-based Silicon Ranch, allows BrightRidge to offer its customers access to a sustainable and renewable energy source capable of generating 8 million kilowatt hours of electricity annually.
The owner of Off Leash K9 Training, a Johnson City dog training facility, and a trainer who works there have been charged with aggravated animal cruelty after a family’s pet died during a two-week residential training period, according to authorities.
Trainer Andy Hunigan and owner Randi LaFerney each face one count of aggravated animal cruelty in the dog’s death.
The dog in question, an 8-month old miniature bull terrier named Dallas, weighed 31 pounds at the beginning of what was supposed to be a two-week stay with his trainer. The dog ended up emaciated, dead and weighing 16 pounds after a forced five week stay, and has been sent to the University of Tennessee veterinary school for necropsy.
The details of the case are heartbreaking and puzzling, and you can read the full report online at johnsoncitypress.com.