VOL. 124 | NO. 143 | Thursday, July 23, 2009
Stanley Resigns Committee Chairmanship
By Andy Meek
State Sen. Paul Stanley’s letter resigning his chairmanship of the Senate Commerce, Labor and Agriculture Committee:
Dear Gov. Ramsey,
As a member of the 106th General Assembly, it has been an honor to serve as a member of the state Senate and on a number of committees you have assigned to me. In light of recent events that have occurred and my involvement in an ongoing investigation, I am resigning as chairman of the Commerce, Labor and Agriculture Committee.
Thank you for your service as our speaker of the Senate and I look forward to serving my district and state as we continue in our duties.
Speaking with The Daily News Wednesday, top leaders of both political parties in the state Senate hesitated to condemn their colleague, Sen. Paul Stanley of Germantown, for his alleged relationship with a 22-year-old legislative intern.
Senate Democratic Leader Jim Kyle and Republican Leader Mark Norris, both of Shelby County, were reserved in comments about Stanley’s situation, news of which broke Tuesday evening.
Among other things, that relationship allegedly exposed Stanley to a blackmail attempt by the young woman’s boyfriend and spurred him to resign as chairman of the Senate’s Commerce, Labor and Agriculture Committee Wednesday.
Leadership of the commerce committee is an important perch, because all business-related legislation passes through it.
Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey accepted Stanley’s resignation of the chairmanship Wednesday morning. In a brief statement, Ramsey said: “I received a letter from Sen. Stanley resigning from his chairmanship of the Commerce, Labor and Agriculture Committee. And I’ve accepted his resignation.”
Norris told The Daily News he would reserve judgment on the matter until he knew more details, but said he’s disappointed in what he’s read so far.
“That’s about all I can say concerning it yet. I’ll have more to share at the appropriate time,” Norris said. “But, you know, life goes on. And there’s important work to be done. We’ve got a job to do, and I’ve got to keep my eye on that.”
Asked if he thought the allegations were something too insurmountable for Stanley to remain an effective legislator, Norris said only Stanley could make that decision.
Kyle, meanwhile, was even more reserved and brief in his comments about the incident, details of which are spelled out in a court affidavit filed in Nashville.
The affidavit revealed the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation is investigating an alleged attempt to extort $10,000 from Stanley over the incident. The affidavit mentions a memory disc containing “explicit” photographs of legislative intern McKensie Morrison that “appeared to be taken in Stanley’s (Nashville) apartment.” The affidavit goes on to say Morrison was “engaged in a sexual relationship with Stanley.”
Morrison was involved in a relationship with Joel Watts, according to the affidavit, and Watts discovered the memory disc. He allegedly began sending text messages and making phone calls to Stanley April 8, and during those contacts he suggested Stanley pay $10,000 for the photos.
The affidavit says Watts told Stanley the photos would be released to the public if the senator did not pay.
“Releasing the photographs to individuals or the media would cause embarrassment, both professionally and personally, to Stanley,” the affidavit reads.
Kyle told The Daily News: “On a personal level, this is an issue between (Stanley) and his wife. On a professional level, it’s an issue between him and the speaker. That’s where I am.”
Stanley declined to comment about the incident, citing the continuing nature of the extortion investigation.
Stanley called the TBI about the matter April 8, and Stanley at the direction of the TBI then met with Watts April 9 behind an El Rey Azteca Mexican Restaurant in Whites Creek in Davidson County. The affidavit says “a controlled delivery of $10,000 was organized and made to Watts.”
The $10,000 was supplied by the TBI, and the memory disc was given to Stanley at that time. At that point, Watts also was taken into custody.
Watts is charged with theft and extortion and had a preliminary hearing Monday in Nashville.