Legislative Interns Told Proper Relationships Is Their Job - NewsChannel5.com | Nashville News, Weather & Sports

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Legislative Interns Told Proper Relationships Is Their Job

McKensie Morrison McKensie Morrison
Republican Sen. Paul Stanley Republican Sen. Paul Stanley
McKensie Morrison McKensie Morrison
House Democratic leader Gary Odom, he ended up marrying his intern. House Democratic leader Gary Odom, he ended up marrying his intern.

It's Day Four of the state Senate intern scandal, and still Republican Sen. Paul Stanley is avoiding questions raised by the alleged extortion incident.

NewsChannel 5 Investigates went to Stanley's Capitol Hill office.

But the office was locked up tight, with no sign of the embattled, family-values senator -- or his staff.

Still, our chief investigative reporter Phil Williams discovered, legislative leaders may also have some questions to answer -- about the culture on Capitol Hill and the rules about how lawmakers are supposed to behave.

Senate video, first discovered by NewsChannel 5 Investigates, shows the Senate chairman Paul Stanley, asking his mistress intern to introduce her parents.

"McKensie, would you please introduce your guests today," Stanley tells intern McKensie Morrison. "You're recognized."

"Thank you, Sen. Stanley," Morrison answered. "I have my grandfather with me. His name is Will Morrison. He's in the front row. And my father right beside him, also Will Morrison, in the front row."

Then, perhaps most eerily, there's this from Stanley: "I certainly appreciate the stories the parents have shared with me today. It's going to help us manage the interns better in the second half of the session."

In fact, the Stanley affair has brought public attention to a Capitol Hill culture described on the Post Politics blog in a letter from another intern:

"What I can also tell you is that almost every man up there feels entitled to look, touch, and flirt with any female in that place, regardless of whether she is an intern, lobbyist, guest, etc."

Connie Ridley, the legislature's director of administration, says she does "spend time talking with the members of the General Assembly about our sexual harassment policy."

But Ridley says lawmakers haven't set rules about consensual relationships between them and the interns they supervise.

In the case of House Democratic leader Gary Odom, he ended up marrying his intern.

Referring to the interns, Ridley said, "We do not want to find them with their picture on the front page of the newspaper having done something that's going to embarrass the legislature."

By contrast to Tennessee's policy, New York prohibits members "from engaging in personal relationships with interns," saying it did so "to prevent favoritism, morale problems, disputes or misunderstandings, potential harassment claims, and inferences of impropriety."

Tennessee puts the responsibility on the interns, saying they "should avoid conduct" that might embarrass the lawmakers.

"I have even used the Monica Lewinsky intern incident," Ridley added, "to remind them that those are the types of activities that we don't want to see them involved in because it is very much an embarrassment to the institution, to themselves, to their family and to the legislators."

Ridley would not say if any sexual harassment complaints had been filed by interns against Stanley or any other lawmakers, saying those complaints are confidential.

So Is anyone talking about adopting rules like New York has? The Senate speaker, Ron Ramsey, has been very quiet -- as have Stanley's other colleagues. Right now, this is a political hot potato and no one really seems to be interested in picking up this issue.

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