Category Archives: attorney general

AG: Durham lawsuit contrary to public interest

Responding Monday to a lawsuit brought by state Rep. Jeremy Durham, Attorney General Herbert Slatery argues that blocking release of a report on an investigation into allegations that the lawmaker engaged in sexual harassment would be contrary to the public interest, reports The Tennessean.

“It cannot be in the public interest to prevent that investigation,” Slatery writes.

Representatives for Durham and Slatery are set to discuss their motions during a hearing at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday in Davidson County Chancery Court.

The filing reveals some details about the Slatery investigation — including the fact that the attorney general couldn’t get details from Durham’s personal phone and that Durham “refused” to be interviewed. Durham and his attorney, Bill Harbison, would only agree to let a third party, hired by his attorney, use search terms provided by the attorney general to look through Durham’s phone records.

The attorney general determined those stipulations would reveal “privileged and confidential information” that could compromise the investigation and the identity of witnesses, and refused to agree to Durham’s terms. Since April, Durham failed to consider any alternative review, “thus, the office was never able to obtain any data from his personal cell phone,” Slatery writes.

The attorney general also notes investigators told Durham from the onset of the investigation that they wanted to interview him. Slatery says Durham refused that request. Durham also refused to provide names for any witnesses the attorney general could interview, although Slatery asked for any suggested people to interview who Durham thought would be pertinent.

…In the lawsuit, Durham alleges the investigation is illegal, arguing Slatery and House Speaker Beth Harwell don’t have the authority to investigate him because only the legislature can police itself, and that he’s been denied “due process” because the attorney general hasn’t outlined the specific allegations against him. He also argues that the investigation should have come to a close at the end of the legislative session, or that there’s no rush to release the investigative report because the next legislative session isn’t set to start until January.

…All of Durham’s arguments asking for an injunction, legal or otherwise, are wrong, Slatery writes in a 30-page filing, including another 90 pages of supporting documents.

But Slatery does agree with an assertion in Durham’s filing that the case is about abuse of power.

“And in a sense, it is: it is a case in which (Durham) wants only to prevent the House from investigating allegations about his use and abuse of his position of power as a member of the House,” Slatery writes, referencing one of Durham’s arguments in the initial filing.

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. Continue reading

Holt says AG Slatery agrees with him on traffic camera companies violating TN law

News release from state Rep. Andy Holt (with the headline, ‘Attorney General Sides with Rep. Holt)
NASHVILLE, Thursday, July 07, 2016– Tennessee State Representative Andy Holt (R-Dresden) has been on a crusade against the use of photo-enforcement cameras for many years, citing that they are illegal and turn the American justice system on its head. Giving a boost to Holt’s argument, Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery responded to a request by Holt to opine on whether or not out-of-state traffic camera companies contracted by Tennessee cities were in violation of state law on Wednesday afternoon.

(Note: The opinion is HERE.)

At the heart of Holt’s issue, is the fact that out-of-state photo-enforcement companies contracted throughout the state of Tennessee have utilized non-law enforcement employees to preliminarily review video footage of supposed traffic violations, and are then making determinations regarding whether or not a violation has occurred. The scrubbed footage is then sent back to local law enforcement agencies with violations that are simply rubber-stamped by a POST-certified officer. Local law enforcement agencies often claim that an officer “witnessed” the supposed violator and by placing their signature on the ticket claim to validate the supposed violation. For all practical purposes, actual law enforcement personnel have been removed from the current photo-enforcement process, with the single exception of simply placing the signature of an officer on each ticket that has already been processed by the employees of these private companies.
Continue reading

Slatery won’t sue feds over refugees in TN despite legislative mandate

By Travis Loller, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery won’t sue the federal government over its refugee resettlement program.

A General Assembly resolution passed earlier this year had demanded legal action. Gov. Bill Haslam allowed it to take effect without his signature in May.

“I have constitutional concerns about one branch of government telling another what to do,” Haslam wrote to lawmakers at the time.

In a Tuesday letter to the clerks of the state Senate and House of Representatives, Slatery outlined what he sees as lawmakers’ two concerns about refugee resettlement. One is that federal officials are not properly consulting with state and local officials, as required by law. The other is that the federal government is confiscating state resources by coercing Tennessee to accept refugees.

Slatery notes in the letter that the consulting issue already has been dismissed in federal court. He says the coerced spending issue is an untested legal theory that is unlikely to succeed. Continue reading

Durham investigation to be finished ‘in near future’

Rep. Steve McDaniel, who chairs the ad hoc committee investigating alleged misconduct by Rep. Jeremy Durham, says he expects Attorney General Herbert Slatery is expected to have a report to the panel “in the near future,” reports The Tennessean. He’s asked other committee members to check their calendars with an eye toward setting another meeting date.

One of those members, Rep. Billy Spivey, R-Lewisburg, expressed concern about the fact that the final report could be released just days ahead of when early voting begins July 15.

“It certainly is just another point that doesn’t pass the smell test,” said Spivey, who previously called for an end to the investigation.

McDaniel, however, rejected concerns about the release of the investigation and the forthcoming election. “I don’t see anything political about this entire investigation,” he said.

The conclusion of Slatery’s investigation is expected to factor into whether the House of Representatives moves forward with possible expulsion proceedings.

…When asked for a comment, Durham told The Tennessean to stop contacting him.

Volkswagen paying $15B to settle lawsuits; TN gets millions

By Tom Krisher and Dee-Ann Durbin, AP Auto Writers
DETROIT (AP) — Volkswagen will spend more than $15 billion to settle consumer lawsuits and government allegations that it cheated on emissions tests in what lawyers are calling the largest auto-related class-action settlement in U.S. history.

Under the settlement revealed Tuesday by a U.S. District Court in San Francisco, VW will pay just over $10 billion to either buy back or repair about 475,000 vehicles with cheating 2-liter diesel engines. The company also will compensate owners with payments of $5,100 to $10,000, depending on the age of their vehicles.

Although the company has been working on a repair for the vehicles for months, it appears that VW may not be able to fix the cars and will have to buy them all back, according to the documents.

The German automaker also has to pay governments $2.7 billion for environmental mitigation and spend another $2 billion for research on zero-emissions vehicles.

Volkswagen also settled with 44 states, Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico, which also sued the company, agreeing to pay about $603 million. That brings the total settlements announced Tuesday to $15.3 billion. (Note: Tennessee was one of the states. Attorney General Herbert Slatery’s news release on the settlement is at the end of this AP story. Among other things, Tennessee is eligible for $42 million in environmental mitigation money and $12.6 million for violations of state consumer protection laws ) Continue reading

TN cookie-cutter reaction to Supreme immigration ruling

The Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition has declared dismay over the U.S. Supreme Court deadlock that derails President Obama’s attempt to block deportation of millions of illegal immigrants and some Democrats are equally unhappy. Tennessee’s Republican congressmen are celebrating. So is Republican Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery, who had joined the Texas-initiated lawsuit after prodding from GOP legislators.

All, of course, echo national partisan gridlock on the issue, illustrating once again that the old cliche about of all politics being local is no longer true. Here’s a roundup of Tennessee commentary from the quickly-generated press release pile: Continue reading

Tennesseans to receive $8.5M in E-book price fixing case

News release from the attorney general’s office:
Tennessee Attorney General Herbert H. Slatery III today announced Tennessee residents who purchased electronic books (E-books) could begin receiving account credits or checks this week. Payments are the result of the successful prosecution of a price-fixing case against Apple, Inc. in 2013.

Tennessee joined a group of 33 states, led by Connecticut and Texas, in investigating and prosecuting Apple for its participation in the conspiracy to artificially inflate E-book prices. Apple is obligated to pay $400 million in nationwide consumer compensation after the United States Supreme Court denied Apple’s request to review a lower court’s finding that the company violated antitrust laws.

“Returning the hard-earned money of Tennessee consumers was the primary goal in this litigation,” Attorney General Slatery said. “I appreciate the hard work of our office, along with our colleagues in other states, to make certain all companies compete fairly and play by the same rules.” Continue reading

Judge halts recount of Amendment 1 vote

A federal judge has ordered a halt to a vote recount on the controversial abortion measure, Amendment 1, pending an appeal by state election officials.

Further from The Tennessean:

U.S. District Judge Kevin Sharp, who ordered the recount in April, issued the stay on Tuesday at the request of Tennessee election officials who are appealing his decision the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit.

Sharp cited the potential price tag of a recount to Tennessee taxpayers — approximately $1 million — in issuing his order.

Should the Court of Appeals overturn his order, it “raises the possibility that public money may be spent on something which turns out to be unnecessary,” Sharp wrote.

Amendment 1 passed in November 2014 with 53 percent of the vote. The measure was among the most controversial in Tennessee history and stripped the right to an abortion from the state constitution.

Eight voters, including the board chair of Planned Parenthood of Middle & Eastern Tennessee, filed suit within days of its passage, claiming the method state election officials used to count the vote was fundamentally unfair and gave more weight to “yes” votes than “no” votes.

Durham investigated for alleged campaign finance violations

At the request of the state Attorney General’s Office, the Tennessee Registry of Election Finance board decided Wednesday to look into whether state Rep. Jeremy Durham misappropriated money meant from his campaign finance account, reports WPLN.

The claim is that Durham diverted $2,000 from his campaign account last year and used it to pay the bills for his struggling title company, Battleground Title and Escrow. Durham is also accused of trying to cover up the transaction by reporting the money had been paid to an aide named Benton Smith for political work.

But Smith says in an affidavit that’s not true. He quit working for Durham and took his concerns to Attorney General Herbert Slatery.

The attorney general also obtained a screenshot of text messages between Durham and Smith that seemed to confirm the transaction took place. After looking at the evidence, the attorney general handed it over this week to the Tennessee Registry of Election Finance, which has jurisdiction over campaign finance violations.

Registry members voted unanimously to open an investigation immediately. The Registry plans to subpoena records going back to 2013 to see if there are other such transactions.

Chairman Tom Lawless says the claim campaign money was used for private business is serious.

“That’s something that shouldn’t be happening,” he says. “But there may be a perfectly good explanation. We only have an affidavit of one person. Representative Durham, again, as I said, he’s presumed innocent.”

For his part, Durham calls the story “complete garbage” and says no campaign money ever went into his title company.