New House Speaker denies sexual harassment claim - WKRN News 2

New House Speaker denies sexual harassment claim

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Newly-elected House Speaker Kent Williams again Wednesday denied a claim he sexually harassed a fellow Republican lawmaker back in 2007.

"I have never harassed anyone in any way, never will.  I have never been reprimanded or any harassment and that is all I can say about it," Williams said Wednesday as he emerged from long meetings about assigning House members to committees.

The allegations come from State Representative Susan Lynn who spoke to House Republican leader Jason Mumpower about the incident a day after the March 27, 2007 incident.
 
Lynn said Williams told her in a legislative parking garage, "I will give a weeks pay just to see you naked."

Republican leader Mumpower detailed what Lynn told him and included several witnesses in a memo.

The document was kept secret in compliance with the legislative policy on sexual harassment.

Mumpower, who Williams upset for the Speaker of the House position last week, said he released the memo after a proper Freedom of Information request by a reporter.

Despite Williams' denials, the document signed by Mumpower on April 11, 2007 says Williams apologized to Lynn.

Speaker Williams would not address that detail, citing the legislative sexual harassment policy.

When asked Wednesday if he was distracted he said, "Nothing distracts me. I have got a job to do and that is what I have concentrated on, my job.  You will get to know me better and if someone has thicker skin than me down here I don't know who that is."
 
In a statement, Representative Lynn said, "After the incident occurred I went to my leadership to gain assistance with insisting upon proper professional behavior...  None of this was ever meant to be made public."

The director of legislative administration, Connie Ridley, says lawmakers, by their own policy, are not supposed to talk about sexual harassment charges if they are involved in anyway.

It appears it is already too late for that.

Former House Speaker Jimmy Naifeh was asked Wednesday about the sexual harassment charges during an interview taped for This Week with Bob Mueller.

"It's just real funny to me that if something, this is something allegedly happened two years ago, that all of a sudden when Speaker Williams becomes the new speaker, its no longer a closed record, they have just opened it up and given it out," Naifeh said.  "I don't know if that memo was from two years ago or two days ago."

When contacted about Naifeh's comments, Mumpower said he released the document after the Freedom of Information Request Tuesday morning.

He called Naifeh questions about the timing of the memo, and when it was written, "offensive and preposterous."

News 2 reporter Chris Bundgaard contributed to this report.

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