Columnist sees House leaders “bungling” in Durham affair

Tennessean columnist David Plazas sees “bungling” in the way House Republican leadership has handled the allegations about Rep. Jeremy Durham. An excerpt:

Majority Leader Gerald McCormick, who was approached by two women last year, opted not to take their allegations against Durham any further, instead insisting that they file formal complaints. He kept those details private until this week.

In hindsight that was a clear indication why the system to address such allegations is severely flawed and needs to be fixed.

And in an even more deplorable step, GOP House Caucus Chairman Glen Casada, a mentor and friend to Durham, chased rumors by asking women who were statehouse employees about Durham’s behavior toward them.

That has the effect of creating an atmosphere of intimidation, and it’s unlikely any woman would have felt compelled to confide in him.

Both men had an opportunity to ask for an independent investigation, which would have been far wiser.

Speaker Beth Harwell should have done the same, but has all but ceded her power by reacting to events of the day instead of making proactive decisions to deal with a rogue member of the House.

She is the Speaker of the House, and if she fails to use the tools at her disposal, she is essentially powerless.

Harwell said Wednesday night she is looking into expelling him from the legislature. On Thursday after Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, her counterpart in the Senate, told reporters that Durham had an affair with a legislator who resigned, Harwell called for the attorney general’s office to investigate Durham.

The GOP House had a chance to discuss Durham’s leadership, or even consider an investigation, at its special meeting Jan. 12 to discuss his behavior.

Instead of addressing the concerns then, lawmakers played parliamentary procedure games in a closed-door meeting that shielded Durham from any scrutiny.

It is clear that the system for reporting sexual harassment and for investigating sexual harassment is broken.