Category Archives: scandals

Durham facing another investigation

Former state Rep. Jeremy Durham is being investigated by the board charged with disciplining attorneys, according to The Tennessean.

A source with information of the investigation confirmed the Tennessee Board of Professional Responsibility is looking into possible “trust account violations,” or the possibility Durham misused money given to him by clients.

Durham is also being investigated by the Tennessee Registry of Election Finance, which authorized issuing subpoenas for Durham’s tax returns. Tom Lawless, chairman of the registry’s board, referenced a possible additional investigation during a recent board meeting.

However, Lawless said his organization, which investigates campaign finance issues, had no current plans to explore questions of how Durham used his attorney trust accounts as that typically falls under the purview of the Board of Professional Responsibility.

Durham’s attorney, Peter Strianse, did not respond to a request for comment.

Sandy Garrett, chief disciplinary counsel for the Board of Professional Responsibility, did not confirm or deny the existence of any investigation. She said the board does not make investigations public until formal discipline or disciplinary charges have been filed.

The specific nature of the Board of Professional Responsibility’s investigation is unclear, but it appears to relate to Durham’s use of his attorney trust account. A University of Memphis law school graduate, Durham operated a title company until he abruptly shuttered it in August.

Sunday column: On the legal validity of dumping Durham

Last week’s extraordinary session of the Tennessee Legislature had some ordinary aspects — predictable partisan and bipartisan bickering, for example — but the Jeremy Durham debacle was really something special.

After the 70-2 vote Tuesday to expel the Franklin Republican from his House seat, Durham made the rounds at Nashville television stations declaring that he’s likely to file a lawsuit, contending that his removal from office violated the state constitution.

This was somewhat anticipated during the House floor debate. Rep. Andy Holt, R-Dresden, suggested that a lawsuit would cost taxpayers more than paying Durham’s pension, which he will lose as result of being booted prior to completion of his term in November. That, and concerns about constitutionality, were among the reasons cited by Holt in boldly pushing the blue light on House voting machines, which means he was present but not voting. Three others did the same, including one bold Democrat, Rep. Antonio Parkinson of Memphis. Continue reading

Four legislators explain dodging Durham vote

Three northeast Tennessee state House members have explained to the Johnson City Press why they refused to vote one way or the other on the motion to expel Rep. Jeremy Durham during a special legislative session.

In the 70-2 vote to oust Durham, accused of inappropriate sexual conduct with 22 women, Reps. Micah Van Huss, Matthew Hill and Timothy Hill all refused to cast votes, along with nine other seated members.

“I do not believe that my constituents sent me to Nashville to be judge, jury and executioner on a person who has been denied their 6th Amendment rights,” Van Huss, R-Jonesborough, said Friday. Continue reading

Notes and quotes from Durham ouster debate

Some notes and quotes from debate on the ouster of Rep. Jeremy Durham, R-Franklin, on Wednesday:

–“It is the Lord who appoints people to office, and it is He who takes them out… The Lord has already decided.” Rep. Susan Lynn, R-Mount Juliet, sponsor of the resolution to expel Durham, during a House Republican Caucus meeting.

–“Let’s go up there and flush this commode.” Rep. David Alexander, R-Winchester, also during the Republican Caucus meeting. Continue reading

Durham blasts ‘Jane Does,’ House leaders

State Rep. Jeremy Durham sent an eight-page letter to House colleagues Monday that defends himself, attacks the women who accused him of sexual misconduct and blasts House leadership for handling the investigation, reports The Tennessean.

Durham threatens in the letter to release a document that would name the 22 women who accused him of inappropriate sexual conduct and show text messages that he says could prove his innocence.

(Note: Text of the letter is HERE, as posted by Nashville Post Politics.)

The women spoke to the attorney general on the condition of anonymity, afraid there could be negative personal and professional ramifications if they were identified.

Durham, 32, faces an ouster vote this week as lawmakers meet in Nashville for a special legislative session.

“This type of unbridled authority is dangerous,” he said while discussing the “dangerous precedent” it sets for expelling a member based on an attorney general’s report.

“Due to the way this situation has been handled, my family finds itself in the position of wanting to largely clear my name by releasing names and text messages of many Jane Does while also wanting to not make the situation a bigger circus than it has already become,” Durham writes in the letter.

“I’ve prepared a document responding to each and every Jane Doe — with names — and with text messages stored on a cloud. But that process should be handled according to House rules — not in a public expulsion proceeding.”

…Durham says “zero of the 22 Jane Does remotely fit any definition of sexual harassment.” He argues that sending a text that says “what’s up” or “offering a simple verbal compliment can hardly be considered inappropriate conduct.”
Continue reading

Durham likens ouster to ‘medieval beheading’

State Rep. Jeremy Durham tells WKRN-TV via text message that he plans to attend next week’s special session that will include an attempt to remove him from office — if some conditions are met. But it seems those conditions are not what House Speaker Beth Harwell has in mind.

When asked by reporter Chris Bundgaard if he would attend the special session, Durham replied by saying, “If they provide me a legitimate opportunity to present my own evidence and face my accusers, I wouldn’t miss it. But it must be fair.”

Durham also added, “They’re trying to expel someone who’s never been charged with a crime and never been the subject of a human resources complaint. The least they could do is give me a fair trial. Simply giving someone a few last words before a vote is taken on them sounds more like medieval beheading than anything resembling American constructional principles.”

Durham, who was the subject of a scathing state attorney general report where 22 Tennessee Capitol Hill women accused him of sexual harassment, recently lost a primary bid, but he will retain his seat until a replacement is elected in November.

Other lawmakers have voiced their concerns about Durham receiving pension. Pensions begin at the age of 55 and lasts for the rest of the recipient’s life.

Durham’s pension, if he finishes his second term in November, would be worth about $344 per month, or $4,130 per year.

Further, an excerpt from The Tennessean story:

House Speaker Beth Harwell said Durham had his chance.

“What I understand is that the (attorney general) report serves as evidence and he will be given the chance to address the body and that’s it,” she told The Tennessean on Thursday.

Effort to call Durham ouster session flops

Efforts to call Tennessee legislators into special session to expel Reps. Jeremy Durham and oe Armstrong from the House failed to get the needed signatures by Friday’s deadline, reports the Times-Free Press.

There were two petitions — one to expel only Durham, R-Franklin; the other to expel Armstrong, D-Knoxville, as well.

Both petitions fell dozens of signatures short of the required 66 or two thirds of 99 representatives needed to initiate the process.

“I think I’ll be relieved to be finished with Jeremy Durham issues,” said Majority Leader Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga, who initiated the Durham-only petition. “I think the body has decided not to pursue that.”

Only 27 representatives signed McCormick’s petition to oust Durham, described in a state Attorney General investigation of having inappropriately approached or sexually harassed at least 22 women, most of them state Capitol female workers, interns and lobbyists.

Sixteen Republicans and 11 Democrats signed McCormick’s Durham petition. Continue reading

Black Caucus opposes Durham ouster session

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. Continue reading

Durham loses seat in a landslide

State Rep. Jeremy Durham, once viewed as a rising star among younger Republican, lost his House seat in a landslide Thursday following reports on his sexual harassment of 22 women.

From The Tennessean’s report:

Challenger Sam Whitson trounced the former House majority whip, earning 3,682 votes compared to 645 for Durham, according to final but unofficial results. Stacey Givens, who pulled out of the race but did so too late to have her name removed from the ballot, received 303 votes.

“I’m just very grateful to the voters of the 65th House District, trusting me in this. This is a great victory in the Republican primary and we’re looking forward to the November general election,” Whitson, 62, said after the race was called in his favor. “We’re going to work just as hard in that one as we did in this one.”

Durham suspended his campaign last month in the wake of a Tennessee attorney general’s report citing 22 women who alleged inappropriate sexual contact or conduct by Durham, R-Franklin. Early voting started the next day.

Durham, 32, and his attorney Bill Harbison did not respond to a request for comment on Thursday.