NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) - Tennessee Democrats are calling for a federal investigation after hearing that House Speaker Glen Casada’s staff may have been listening to and watching meetings they thought were private.

The allegation involve meeting rooms that are wired for sound and video, but Democrats said they thought no one was watching.

“This is ridiculous. This is a matter of government corruption at its most serious level and it needs to be fully and thoroughly investigated,” said state Rep. Mike Stewart, D-Nashville, at a press conference on Wednesday.

Democrats are bristling over the idea that Republicans may have been spying on what they thought were private meetings.

The allegation is that a staffer of Casada, a Republican, used a monitor in the Speaker’s office to listen to and watch meetings held in a committee room – meetings that were not public. Meetings that Democrats said they were assured were private.

“We had caucus meetings where we discussed strategy,” said Stewart.

What Democrats want to know, if Republicans were watching and listening, what did they hear? Did they record it and, if so, what did they do with the recordings?

A former federal prosecutor said even if no recordings were made, in his opinion, listening in with electronic devices violated federal wiretap laws.

“One of the particularly insidious things about this is that they were wiretapping for political advantage,” said Alex Little.

There are more questions about white noise speakers that were installed outside the officers of the Republican leadership.

Were they installed for the purpose of preventing anyone from eavesdropping on Casada and his staff?

Democrats said they plan to send a letter to the U.S. Attorney’s office asking him to launch an immediate investigation. They said time is of the essence because evidence, if there is any, could be destroyed or tampered with.

Tennessee House Speaker Glen Casada issued a statement on Wednesday taking “complete ownership” of his inappropriate text messages about women exchanged with his former Chief of Staff Cade Cothren and expressing “my sincere disappointment” for the messages Cothren sent to another person that included racial slurs, drug use and other inappropriate comments.

Casada issued his first statement since the texting scandal broke earlier this week.

He wrote “he must establish trust where it has been broken.”

“I take complete ownership over the text messages with inappropriate comments about women that I exchanged with my former Chief of Staff and another individual several years ago. It’s embarrassing and humbling to have it displayed in this matter,” Casada said in the statement.

The speaker also called for an action plan, calling for clarity as to what has happened and that he will cooperate with a TBI investigation to see if his office forged an email that led to a bond revocation for an activist.

It was also very clear that he has no intention of resigning.

Gov. Bill Lee commented about everything going on with Casada on Wednesday.

“What’s unfolded in the last couple of days is disturbing,” Lee said. “People of Tennessee deserve to have an environment on Capitol Hill that is respectful and that holds to a high standard. That’s what I will be calling for all across state government.”

Copyright 2019 WSMV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

Reporter

Nancy Amons is an award-winning member of the News4 Investigates team. She has been breaking stories in Middle Tennessee for more than 20 years.

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