A Tennessee lawmaker representing part of Knoxville has resigned from a House leadership position following allegations of sexual harassment.
Democratic Tennessee House Representative Rick Staples announced Thursday he is stepping down from his leadership position as Assistant House Minority Leader. He will continue to serve in the house a representative of District 15.
District 15 made up of parts of South Knoxville and Knox County.
“I have already publicly apologized for any distress I unintentionally caused. I have decided to step down from my leadership position of Assistant House Minority Leader so I can end the unwarranted suffering on my family, continue to serve my constituents unimpeded and end any distractions this may bring to the Tennessee House,” Staples said in a released statement. “I look forward to following the recommendations of the Ethics Committee and pledge to remain the best servant to my constituency of District 15. I’ll have no further comment going forward on this matter.”
Tennessee legislative sources say a woman filed a sexual harassment complaint against Rep. Staples with the House Ethics Committee. Staples is also a member of that committee.
Those legislative sources say the complaint came after the woman visited the capitol earlier this year with a group from East Tennessee.
After reports of a sexual harassment complaint against him, Staples apologized, then fired back regarding an allegation of sexual misconduct against him at the State Capitol.
“In today’s social climate, verbiage or actions can be misinterpreted,” Rep. Rick Staples (D-Knoxville) told reporters. “If currently, or in the past, if I have had any words or actions that have been misinterpreted — that is due an apology, and I submit that apology, and it also deserves a humble I’m sorry.”
House Speaker Glen Casada’s office received a letter from the House Workplace Discrimination and Harassment Subcommittee on April 1, which said the panel had reviewed complaints against Rep. Rick Staples.
According to the letter, the subcommittee has directed the Knoxville Democrat to take actions to ensure the violation does not happen again and to report back to the subcommittee.