Republicans and Democrats on the Senate Ethics Committee clashed today over how to deal with an ethics complaint against Democratic Senator Jerry Cooper of Morrisson.
The complaint concerns Cooper’s role in loan and grant application for land he sold to a couple from Alabama. A federal grand jury indicted the couple and an appraiser for bank fraud in the deal. The grand jury did not indict Cooper, though it mentioned an “unindicted co-conspirator” who used “his political contacts, connections, and influence” to help secure the loan.
Today, Ethics Committee chair Ron Ramsey, a Republican from Blountville, requested a “statement of the facts” from Senator Cooper. Ramsey says Cooper’s testimony will help the committee know if disciplinary action needs to be taken.
“So it’s not clear if anything has been broken here. And it’s exactly the reason that I want either a narrative or Senator Cooper come before us and tell us the facts in this case so we can decide whether it is or not, because there’s nothing clear about this.”
But Senator Joe Haynes, a Democrat from Nashville, says requesting a response from Cooper now would only validate the allegations.
The committee approved Haynes’ suggestion to send two members to Cooper and report back with more details of the business deal.
The Ethics Committee also denied a request to exclude state Senators Ward Crutchfield and Kathryn Bowers from participating in a potential special session on ethics. Both democrats were indicted on federal bribery charges in the Tennessee Waltz sting.