Durham sues Harwell, Slatery to block release of investigative report

Embattled Rep. Jeremy Durham is suing House Speaker Beth Harwell and Attorney General Herbert Slatery over an investigation into the lawmaker that appears nearly complete, reports The Tennessean.

As part of the lawsuit, filed Friday in Davidson County Chancery Court, Durham wants the court to intervene and prevent the release of the attorney general’s investigative report. The court will discuss his motion during a hearing Tuesday afternoon.

“The attorney general informed us of a deadline, basically the special committee was going to convene on Wednesday. That prompted us to respond because there’s really no reason for the committee to meet, other than it’s politically motivated this close to the election,” said Durham’s attorney, Bill Harbison, of Sherrard Roe Voigt & Harbison.

On Friday the special ad hoc committee created to investigate Durham announced it would be meeting Wednesday. It is believed the attorney general report is expected to be released at the meeting. If the injunction is granted it could prevent or delay the release.

“It’s unfortunate that Representative Durham is choosing to delay the ad hoc committee’s work, which should be brought to a conclusion, and the results of the investigation made public,” Harwell said in a statement

Harlow Sumerford, a spokesman for Slatery, said they are reviewing the filing and will respond appropriately. The order granting the Tuesday afternoon hearing says Slatery and Harwell may file a response by 4:30 p.m. Monday.

The filing states the release of the report next week — which, before the lawsuit, could have come as soon as Wednesday — and the upcoming Aug. 4 primary election are not a coincidence.

If the report is released at this time, Rep. Durham will suffer immediate and irreparable harm if the report is released mere days before early voting starts. The releasing of the report days before the election will render a final judgement ineffectual as the damage to Rep. Durham’s reelection efforts will already have taken place,” the lawsuit states.

Durham’s filing has three main arguments: The attorney general doesn’t have any authority to investigate the legislature, that Durham has been denied due process throughout the investigation and that the investigation should have ended when the legislature adjourned.

He wants the court to permanently prevent the release of any investigatory report, declare actions of Harwell and Slatery violated due process and award him attorneys fees.

“The Speaker of the House cannot have such unfettered power to investigate any citizen or representative based purely on media reports and without proper authority and without proper procedure,” states a memo from Harbison in support of the filing.

“The Attorney General should not have such unbridled power either and have the ability to conduct an investigation that lacks fundamental fairness.”