Ethics debate to include two accused - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Ethics debate to include two accused

When state lawmakers go back to Nashville next week to hash out a groundbreaking ethics package, State Senator Kathryn Bowers and State Senator Ward Crutchfield, both indicted after the FBI's Tennessee Waltz sting, will be there with them.

Germantown Representative Brian Kelsey, who spent much of his first year in Nashville, fighting for stricter ethical accountability says it sends the wrong message.

"I think it's ridiculous," Kelsay said. "I think it's going to be very hard for us as legislators to convince people that we're cleaning up our act if two of the people that we've invited to the discussion table are under indictment for bribery."

While others among the accused have resigned their legislative jobs, Bowers and Crutchfield plan to go back to work.

State Senator Jim Kyle of Memphis, who sat on a joint committee on ethics in Nashville, said their presence will likely shift focus at first. But Kyle said at the end of the day, the most important thing is that lawmakers enact real reform. Kyle is confident that will happen.

"In the long run, I think people will do their jobs," he said. "I mean, we did our jobs, the week of the arrest. We finished our work. We did our job, and we'll do our job."

Meanwhile, Kelsey was skeptical.

"I think Senators Bowers and Crutchfield need to really search their hearts and determine whether it's best for the people of Tennessee that they be there, and that they be involved in the discussion, he said.

Neither Bowers and Crutchfield were available for comment Monday, although in other press reports, both have continued to proclaim their innocence and have said they were going to attend the session.

Crutchfield will have to slip out during the session for his trial date on bribery charges.

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