Rick Staples
Tennessee State Representative Rick Staples (Democrat - Knoxville)

An internal Tennessee House of Representatives investigation has determined Representative Rick Staples violated the legislature’s sexual harassment policy, according to multiple media reports.

The Knoxville Democrat, first elected in 2016, is expected to be removed from the House Ethics Committee but remain in office.

Rick Staples accused of grabbing

An unnamed woman made a complaint about Staples’ behavior after an encounter with the Representative.

Specifically, the woman alleges Staples grabbed her from behind, put his arm around her waist, and made inappropriate comments about her appearance.

She claims it was not the first time Staples had made such comments to the woman, but that it was the first time he had touched her inappropriately. She decided to proceed with an official complaint.

“My first day doing anything in politics, one of the very first things I heard was not to be alone in a room with Rick,” she said in an interview reported in the Tennesseean.

The woman reported the incident to House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Stewart. She said she had to follow up on the complaint before she received a reply.

Further details of the woman’s complaint, or the House Ethics Committee findings, have yet to be made public.

Staples has neither denied nor confirmed the story. “Frustratingly, I can’t comment on anything at this point,” he told the Knoxville News Sentinel.

Staples to remain in office

Staples is expected to face disciplinary action, including removal from the Ethics Committee. There is no expectation he will be removed from office.

Venting her frustration, the woman accusing Staples said in her interview, “I personally hate the fact that (Staples is) still in office, that he’s treating women like this and still has a job representing the people of (his) district.”

In January, Republican House Speaker Glen Casada told Nashville Public Radio he would not pressure legislators to step down from office unless they were convicted in a court of law.

“There are allegations made all the time,” Casada said during the interview with journalist Sergio Martínez-Beltrán. “And in our political environment, false allegations are made with the hope that a leader would cave and take an allegation over truth.”

Yet another #MeToo allegation in the Tennessee House

The investigation into Rick Staples is the fourth time a Tennessee House member has faced sexual misconduct allegations in recent years.

Most notably, Republican Representative David Byrd was accused of abusing his position as a high school girls’ basketball coach in March 2018. Despite the allegations, Byrd was reelected in the 2018 election and remains in office.

Republican Mark Eades resigned in February 2017 following allegations of sexual harassment.

Republican Jeremy Durham resigned in January 2016 after stories of inappropriate text messages to several women were reported in the Tennesseean.

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