The former wife of House Speaker Glenn Richardson told an Atlanta television station on Monday that her ex-husband’s attempted suicide was less about taking his own life than it was gaining control over her.
“I don’t think it was because he was depressed. I think it was power and control that motivated him to do this,” Susan Richardson told the station, according to a video of the interview posted on the station’s Web site.
Susan Richardson’s revelations prompted the leader of the House Democrats on Tuesday to say it’s time for the public to know the truth.
Update 12:18 p.m. The leader of the majority Republican caucus meanwhile, declined to comment about Susan Richardson’s statements. House Majority Leader Jerry Keen (R-St. Simons Island) said he has not had a chance to talk to the speaker or “look at everything that has been said.”
But when asked if Richardson should resign as speaker, Keen said, “What I think would be fair is to let me get back over there and sit down with our leadership team and talk with the Speaker.”
Glenn Richardson, the Republican leader of the House, attempted to kill himself on Nov. 8 at his Paulding County home. He admitted the attempt on his own life in a statement to the media nearly a week later. Paulding County sheriff’s reports show that Richardson was found in his bathroom with a revolver and was semi-conscious and did not respond to verbal commands. In a 911 call, Glenn Richardson’s mother said her son told her he had purposely taken some pills and that it was “too late” to help him.
In the interview, Susan Richardson said she is convinced her husband had an affair with an Atlanta Gas Light lobbyist, an affair that prompted an ethics complaint filed by legislative Democrats. The complaint alleged Richardson had an “inappropriate” and “personal” relationship with a lobbyist for the utility while pushing a bill authorizing the utility to build a controversial natural gas pipeline.
According to e-mails Fox 5 quoted between Glenn Richardson and the lobbyist, the speaker calmed her fears of being fired over the allegations by saying he would “bring all hell down on them if they do.”
Susan Richardson also claims that when she recently took a weekend trip with a new boyfriend and left her children with Glenn Richardson, their father, the House speaker sent her dozens of text and e-mail messages threatening to beat her up, to accuse her of abandoning her children and to use the Georgia state patrol and Georgia Bureau of Investigation to locate her.
Fox 5 said it attempted to reach Glenn Richardson, Atlanta Gas Light and their former lobbyist to respond. None would. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution tried to reach a spokesman for Glenn Richardson late Monday, but he could not be reached for comment.
At the time, Richardson denied any conflict, but refused to address the alleged relationship with the lobbyist. Republicans supported Richardson in public; in private, some suggested his aspirations for higher office had been compromised. Richardson has not since talked publicly about running for higher office.
The ethics complaint prompted an ominous speech by Richardson during a breakfast gathering of the state’s business leaders.
“The last few weeks, I have been fed a little poison, and I’ve taken it,” Richardson said. “But the bad news — for those that manufactured, dispensed and stirred unreasonably the poison — is that I survived. I’m looking for the folks that manufactured that poison.”
Susan and Glenn Richardson were married for 17 years. The couple divorced in February of 2008.
On Nov. 13, Glenn Richardson released a statement to the media saying he had tried to commit suicide because he struggled with depression following his “separation and divorce.”
But Susan Richardson said Monday that she doesn’t “really believe it was really an attempt to take his life. I think it was for attention and he got it.”
Her ex-husband, she said, wanted to get back together.
“It’s not about our marriage ending. He’s lost control of me. He doesn’t like that,” Susan Richardson said.
She said that while he was in the hospital recuperating from his attempted suicide, he called her and said, ‘Now, are you going to take me back?’ I said, ‘No, I’m not going to take you back. I’m furious with you, the pain you’ve caused everyone who loves you.’”
Glenn Richardson, in his statement to the media, said he has regularly seen a physician for his depression and takes prescription medication to battle the illness. Susan Richardson told Fox 5 her ex-husband often threatened to commit suicide. “He did this before, when he got caught by me for having an affair with someone,” she told the television station.
Dale Russell, the Fox 5 reporter who conducted the interview, said he asked Susan Richardson if she was referring to the alleged relationship with the lobbyist.
“It’s not an alleged inappropriate relationship,” she responded. “It was a full out affair and I knew about it.”
Richardson said her husband admitted his infidelity and that she obtained emails that detailed the affair.
Since Richardson admitted his attempted suicide, state Republicans have overwhelmingly flocked to his side, offering support. But the bombshell revelations from his ex-wife could change that, one well-connected Republican activist and consultant said late Monday.
“I don’t know how he survives this one,” the Republican said.
Update 11:22 a.m.: Meanwhile, the leader of the House Democrats said Tuesday that Susan Richardson’s revelations prove what they believed to be true.
“It is past time for people to know the truth,” said House Minority Leader DuBose Porter (D-Dublin), who is running for his party’s nomination for governor in 2010. “What she said is what everyone around the Capitol knew to be true. It’s an indication of the arrogance of this leadership and the corruption that is out of control and in exchange for favors. ”
Porter said he still hopes Richardson gets help, but said his caucus leadership will likely meet later this week to discuss the situation.
Richardson has not said so explicitly, but he has indicated that he has no plans to resign as speaker. If he does not, state law does allow for a method of removing him from the position.
Section 28-1-6.1 of the Georgia code of laws is titled “Method for determining permanent disability of Speaker of the House of Representatives.” It says:
“Upon a petition of 20 members of the majority caucus of the House of Representatives being filed with the Clerk of the House that the Speaker of the House is unable to perform the duties of that office because of physical or mental disability, the Clerk shall make a copy of the petition for the records of his office and shall transmit, within three days, the original to the chairman of the majority caucus along with his certificate as to the date and time on which the petition was filed with him. The chairman shall call a meeting of the caucus to be held within five days from the date he receives the petition and certificate from the Clerk. Such meeting shall be for the purpose of holding a hearing on the petition and the caucus shall adopt rules for the conduct of the hearing. After the hearing the members of the caucus shall vote and if a majority of the membership of the caucus votes that there is a disability and that such disability is permanent the office shall be declared vacant and the Speaker Pro Tempore shall become Speaker and serve until a Speaker is elected.”
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