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VOL. 124 | NO. 30 | Friday, February 13, 2009

Prosecutor Won't Pursue 2 GOP Lawmaker Complaints

AP

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - The Nashville prosecutor's office has decided against pursuing complaints against two Republican lawmakers.

In a letter sent to House Speaker Kent Williams on Thursday, prosecutor Torry Johnson says Rep. Brian Kelsey of Germantown did not try to commit extortion by sending a text message offering improved relations with the speaker in exchange for a committee chairmanship.

Kelsey, who had called on Williams to resign after he was nominated and elected speaker by Democrats last month, said in the text message: "Tell Kent I'm willing to talk about reconciliation if he's willing to talk about chairman of the full committee."

Kelsey, who didn't get the chairmanship he sought, a day later filed an ethics complaint against Williams. It was later dismissed. The state Republican Party this week ousted Williams from the GOP.

Johnson said investigators shouldn't have to spend time examining "what appears to be an outgrowth of an internal political squabble that is best handled within the House of Representatives itself."

Williams' spokesman said the speaker wasn't available for comment because he was home with his ailing mother. Kelsey didn't immediately return a message.

In a separate complaint, Johnson said Rep. Jim Cobb of Spring City "demonstrated very questionable judgment" for placing a recording device under the desk of an assistant.

But the recording only captured a brief muffled conversation and the sounds of a cleaning crew at work, Johnson said.

"If there was confidential information that was captured and intelligible, or had the recordings gone on for a longer period of time, the results of our review would have been different regarding possible criminal prosecution," he said in the letter.

Cobb told the Chattanooga Times Free Press last year that he had left the recorder under the desk as a joke. But investigators said he acknowledged he wanted a record of the aide's conversations with constituents, "because he suspected the assistant may have been acting in an unprofessional manner."

Cobb did not immediately return messages seeking comment.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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