Van Huss: $8,330, taxpayer-funded office reno will allow more room for meetings

David Floyd • Jun 7, 2019 at 5:48 PM

State Rep. Micah Van Huss, R-Jonesborough, said Friday that a taxpayer-funded, $8,330 renovation to his legislative office will allow him to accommodate more meetings now that he chairs the new House Subcommittee on Constitutional Protections and Sentencing, a position he took on this year.

Van Huss confirmed he asked to be moved to a new office to give him more room for meetings, but said the office of House Speaker Glen Casada instead offered to enlarge his office.

“They offered to extend the office because they could not follow through on their promise to give me a different office,” Van Huss said.

The renovations, which occurred in January, were first reported by the Tennessean on Thursday.

Van Huss said Friday that the renovations involved removing a wall to extend his office into an adjacent storage closet. The speaker’s office, he said, handled the pricing.

“I have no idea about the spending stuff,” he said. “That was all taken care of by the speaker’s office.”

According to the Tennessean, the $8,330 total included $2,000 for “chair rail and base,” $1,705 to demolish a wall, $973 for electrical and data, $973 to demolish and replace the ceiling, $925 for mark up and overhead costs, $825 to extend and insulate a wall, $445.50 to build a new wall, $242 to paint a new wall and $242 for carpet.

Even with the new renovations, Van Huss said there are still people who have to stand when he hosts the weekly chairman’s meeting for his subcommittee. He said more than a dozen people, between 13 and 15, attend those meetings.

“There’s people crammed in,” Van Huss said. “Some people have to stand out in my assistant’s office in the new office, so my old office would not have been able to take care of business. It was too small.”

In a statement to the Tennessean, Casada’s office said Van Huss asked for a new office after the speaker named him chair of the constitutional protections and sentencing subcommittee. The $8,330 work on Van Huss’s office, the Tennessean reported, is one portion of almost $48,000 that Casada has approved for House renovations this year.

According to the Tennessean, the legislature moved into offices in the Cordell Hull building in January 2018 after a $126 million renovation.

Casada is in the process of resigning from his role as Speaker of the House after facing scrutiny over sexually explicit text messages exchanged between him and his chief of staff, Cade Cothren, among other allegations.

Before announcing his resignation, members of the Republican caucus voted 45-24 in a secret ballot that they had no confidence in Casada as speaker.

Van Huss said he was one of the Republicans who voted no confidence. After the allegations about sexually explicit text messages surfaced, Van Huss initially indicated that he would continue to support the speaker, but said in late May that his opinions changed as he learned more about the situation.

“What came out during that meeting that disturbed me was the coverup of not knowing that he knew about the text messages when he did, and that was why I cast my vote for no confidence,” Van Huss said during a Johnson City-Jonesborough-Washington County Chamber of Commerce breakfast on May 22. “The coverup is what concerned me the most.”

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