Dozens of state reps have yet to complete sexual harassment trai - WSMV News 4

Dozens of state reps have yet to complete sexual harassment training

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Tennessee State Capitol building (WSMV) Tennessee State Capitol building (WSMV)

After one of the biggest scandals in history on Tennessee’s Capitol Hill, the General Assembly revised its policy on sexual harassment.

Now, everyone at the General Assembly is required to go through awareness training as part of that new policy.

But the Channel 4 I-Team discovered not everyone has taken the course, which consists of one video that lasts approximately 15 minutes.

In a letter, the Office of Legislative Administration requested that state representatives and their staff watch the video by Jan. 31.

More than two weeks later, records indicate 37 of the 99 representatives are lacking the documentation to show they have completed the training course.

“They are required,” said Speaker Beth Harwell, R-Nashville. “It becomes part of their personnel file.”

The 38th representative was Mark Lovell, R-Eads, who resigned Tuesday.

Sources say Lovell resigned amid allegations of sexual misconduct, which he denies.

These policy changes went into effect as a result of other allegations. Former representative Jeremy Durham was expelled last year after he was accused of sexually harassing 22 women.

Even though the training is mandatory, it’s unclear whether lawmakers who skip the video will ever face consequences.

Connie Ridley, the director of the Office of Legislative Administration, said education is the aim of the program—not punishment.

Ridley also said technical issues could be to blame for several legislators failing to meet the deadline.

But some lawmakers question what effect, if any, a video can have on the General Assembly.

“I don’t know what video or policy they’re going to set forth that’s going to change their actions,” said Rep. Bo Mitchell, D-Nashville.

Human resources consultant Jim Thomason said a video serves as a weak deterrent against sexual harassment.

“It’s a way to protect the institution, not the staff members,” said Thomason, the former HR vice president of Thomas Nelson. “You don’t change a culture with a video. You change a culture with a powerful statement from your leader. You change a culture with rigorous training with middle managers and everyone on staff.”

Channel 4 contacted all 37 lawmakers via e-mail to clarify whether they had completed the training as of Wednesday morning. Many did not respond by deadline:

  • Rep. Raumesh Akbari
  • Rep. Kevin Brooks said he completed the training, but did not clarify when.
  • Rep. Sheila Butt
  • Rep. Kent Calfee said he completed the training Wednesday afternoon. He also added: "Once I realized I hadn't completed the training, I immediately did so. I don't want my oversight to imply I do not think this is important. I've always been a proponent of an equal and fair workplace where all are treated with respect."  
  • Rep. Karen Camper
  • Rep. Jim Coley
  • Rep. Martin Daniel said he completed the course but did not clarify when.
  • Rep. John Deberry
  • Rep. Barry Doss
  • Rep. Jeremy Faison
  • Rep. Joanne Favors
  • Rep. Ron Gant
  • Rep. Brenda Gilmore said she completed the training but not by the deadline.
  • Rep. Curtis Halford said he had not completed the training but did watch the video Wednesday afternoon.
  • Rep. GA Hardaway
  • Rep. Matthew Hill
  • Rep. Andy Holt said he completed the training Wednesday afternoon.
  • Rep. Bud Hulsey
  • Rep. Curtis Johnson
  • Rep. Roger Kane said he completed the training Wednesday afternoon.
  • Rep. Kelly Keisling
  • Rep. Ron Lollar
  • Rep. Harold Love
  • Rep. Judd Matheny
  • Rep. Debra Moody
  • Rep. Antonio Parkinson
  • Rep. Mark Pody
  • Rep. Dennis Powers
  • Rep. John Ragan said he completed the training but did not clarify when.
  • Rep. Bob Ramsey
  • Rep. Bill Sanderson
  • Rep. Charles Sargent completed the training, according to a staffer. She did not clarify when.
  • Rep. Johnny Shaw
  • Rep. Dwayne Thompson
  • Rep. Joe Towns
  • Rep. Tim Wirgau watched the video Wednesday afternoon, according to his staffer.
  • Rep. Jason Zachary

The deadline for Senate staff and members to watch the video is Friday.

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