Bredesen Reassembles Team That Mishandled Sexual Harassment Claims

Tennessee Dem was criticized for hiding details of accusations against top officials

Phil Bredesen
Phil Bredesen / Getty Images
• February 6, 2018 5:00 am


A key figure involved in the mishandling of sexual harassment claims by former Tennessee governor Phil Bredesen's administration was added to the Democrat's Senate campaign.

Bredesen's Senate campaign announced late last month the hiring of his former spokesman Bob Corney and former deputy governor Dave Cooley. Both played a role in the administration's sexual harassment issues, which included covering up details of allegations against top state officials and placing officials fired due to allegations in other state positions.

Corney, who was anointed Bredesen's campaign manager, defended the administration after an investigation found it was treating harassment complaints differently when they involved officials appointed by Bredesen.

A Tennessean review of all harassment claims during Bredesen's first two years as governor found harassment cases were typically well documented with notes, but details were shredded when Bredesen's office got involved.

"The governor's office has become involved in a select number of workplace harassment complaints against top state officials and has put them under a veil of secrecy that does not apply to ordinary state workers, a Tennessean review of case files shows," the paper wrote. "When cases are routed through Gov. Phil Bredesen's office, the files are empty, are shredded or contain only one or two pages with almost no details about the accusations or how the investigations were handled."

Corney was put in the position to defend the practice, telling the paper that records were "handled correctly" by the administration. A month later, Bredesen announced they were putting an end to the practice of shredding notes defended by Corney.

Cooley, brought on as a top adviser for the campaign, came under fire as deputy governor for his move to get a major Bredesen fundraiser a state job—and then getting him a different state job after he was accused of sexual harassment.

Cooley was also ordered by Bredesen to stay out of Tennessee Highway Patrol affairs after he was caught using his position to get out of a speeding ticket. He didn't listen and continued to use the agency as a vehicle to reward political donors, the Tennessean again found.

Emails revealed cases such as a Knoxville sergeant who skipped the rank of lieutenant and was made a captain after letting Cooley know he and his wife had just given $3,700 each to Bredesen. Cooley, described as a "lightning rod of criticism," resigned in 2006.

The Bredesen campaign did not respond to an inquiry into whether it has discussed how potential sexual harassment claims would be handled.