Holt Whitt, Chief of Staff to President Sexton, takes office in Governor Bill Lee’s administration

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Six months after House Speaker Cameron Sexton put his acting chief of staff on paid leave as part of a federal investigation involving state lawmakers, Sexton’s former senior adviser now joins the administration by Governor Bill Lee.

Holt Whitt, whom Sexton, R-Crossville, appointed as its interim chief in January 2020, is now joining the Tennessee Human Resources Department as a Human Resources Administrator. The position is effective July 6.

Whitt will serve as the senior policy advisor for the department, “providing support and advice on key strategic initiatives,” according to HR spokesperson Amanda Adams.

After nearly a decade of working in Republican House offices, including under Sexton and former Speaker of the House Glen Casada, Whitt was put on paid administrative leave in January as FBI agents descended on the General Assembly Cordell Hull office building in connection with an ongoing investigation.

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Officers contacted Whitt at his home that day, but did not search him. However, they raided the homes and legislative offices of Casada, R-Franklin, Representative Robin Smith, R-Hixson and Representative Todd Warner, of R-Chapel Hill.

No charges have been filed in the case, which in part involves campaign spending and obscure political advice ventures. Whitt and two other legislative staff were also placed on leave.

FBI agents depart with items from Kent Calfee's office toward Glen Casada's office next to the Cordell Hull State office building in Nashville, Tenn. On Friday, January 8, 2021. It is unclear what they are looking for. .

In March, a US Department of Justice lawyer wrote to Whitt’s lawyer that he was classified as a “witness” in the investigation.

The attorney for the Department of Justice’s Public Integrity Section thanked Whitt and his attorney for being interviewed and for his “continued cooperation,” noting that “status designations are fluid and may change as new evidence is becoming available “.

Adams said the Human Resources Department was aware of Whitt’s status as a witness in the investigation.

In a statement Tuesday, Sexton said Whitt’s resignation from the legislature is effective July 2. Sexton did not say if, prior to the resignation, he had immediate plans to allow Whitt to return to the office.

“Due to the ongoing investigation, I cannot discuss the timeframes or circumstances regarding staff decisions regarding those on leave,” Sexton said.

“Mr. Whitt has not received a letter from the agency stating that he has been cleared. I understand his letter indicates a witness designation at this time, and all status designations are fluid and subject to change. . “

Lee’s office declined to comment.

Sexton did not answer a question about who he will appoint his next chief of staff.

Whitt will begin his new role with an annual salary of $ 130,000, compared to the $ 175,000 he earned as Acting Chief of Staff at Sexton.

When he started in this role in early 2020, Whitt replaced former chief of staff Scott Gilmer, who took office in 2019 under Casada following the resignation of former Casada chief Cade Cothren, who left his post amid a scandal involving sexist and racist texting.

Casada, who received a vote of no-confidence from the House Republican caucus, ultimately resigned as chairman that year. He managed to get re-elected and has remained in the legislature ever since as a grassroots member.

Contact Natalie Allison at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter at @natalie_allison.

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