News release from Black Caucus of State Legislators
The Tennessee Black Caucus of State Legislators (TBCSL) is not endorsing a movement to return lawmakers to Nashville for a special session to vote on possible removal of embattled Rep. Jeremy Durham.
An Attorney General report into the activities of Rep. Durham found that Durham sexually harassed at least 22 women during his time in office. The report was presented to a special House of Representatives committee. The committee determined that while Rep. Durham’s activities were worthy of expulsion, since this is an election year, the voters should be the ones to decide if he should return to the State House.
After calls to oust Durham before November—at which point he would be eligible for a state pension–Republican lawmakers began circulating a petition to members to call for the special session.
TBCSL Chair Brenda Gilmore said the Black Caucus position is that a special session is not needed to “fix an issue that Republican leadership has known about for years and refused to do anything about. They stayed silent and took no action for months and months and now they want to try to turn it into a political issue.”
The voters in Rep. Durham’s district have spoken, and he will not return for the 110th General Assembly.
Black Caucus Vice-Chair Raumesh Akbari of Memphis, who served on the Durham committee, added, “At this point, it’s more important to protect the victims mentioned in the AG’s report. Hearings during a special session would force the victims to re-live their trauma all over again and they have been victimized enough.”
Rep. Akbari also pointed out that one victim told WSMV-TV in Nashville that she had been affected both mentally and physically by her interview with the Attorney General’s office and would not want to relive it again in a Durham ouster investigation.
Her attorney told the television station, “You can’t show up wearing a cape and acting as a savior when you sat there years ago and were aware of the culture and did nothing.”
Chair Gilmore did add that while the Caucus will not support the call for a special session, if one is called, “We will stand by the committee’s finding that his actions are worthy of expulsion and cast our votes accordingly.”
Note: As of Friday morning, only 25 of the 66 House member signatures needed to call a special session had been obtained, according to The Tennessean.