As House leaders collect signatures required to call a special legislative session to expel Rep. Jeremy Durham, the former mentor to the embattled Franklin Republican continues to push for the ouster of a Democrat, reports The Tennessean.
House Republican Caucus Chairman Glen Casada, R-Franklin, is now circulating his own petition for a special session that includes the names of both Durham and Rep. Joe Armstrong. Armstrong, D-Knoxville, is under federal indictment on fraud and tax evasion charges.
“Just as Rep. Durham lied to me and betrayed the trust of this Caucus with his actions, it is plain to see that Rep. Armstrong has also betrayed our trust as a legislative body and used his public office for personal gain,” Casada said in an email Monday to all members of the House GOP caucus.
The move comes after House Speaker Beth Harwell released a petition Friday that only names Durham in its call for a special session. Harwell spokeswoman Kara Owen acknowledged Casada’s desires for Armstrong to be included on the petition Friday, but didn’t immediately say Monday how Casada’s petition may affect the one being circulated by the speaker.
…The current sexual harassment accusations against Durham come from the attorney general’s investigation, which only became public this month, whereas the extent of the allegations against Armstrong have been public since late 2015, Rep. Cameron Sexton, R-Crossville said. He questioned why the legislature didn’t pursue ousting Armstrong while it was in session earlier this year, when all the information available now was also available then.
“There’s the concern about really why at this point is Joe being added? If it’s simply politics, then that’s not a reasonable basis to do it now when we should have done it in March,” Sexton said.
Casada agrees the legislature should have moved to boot Armstrong during session.
“We should have done that back then, but we didn’t,” Casada said in a phone interview. “So now we’re cleaning up the mistake. There’s no reason, we just didn’t.”
Casada said he expects members will sign both petitions. He said a special session that included discussion of expelling both members would be truly bipartisan, although he didn’t specify why such a session had to be bipartisan.
“What we’ve got here is two men who have visibly, openly violated public trust. It’s indisputable. They both need to go.” Casada said, calling on Democrats to sign his petition.
Last week (House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike) Stewart, D-Nashville, said any attempt to include Armstrong before the outcome of his trial would be an effort by Republicans to shirk their duty in dealing with Durham.