Tag Archives: Jeremy Durham

Harwell: Rep. Spivey ‘irresponsible’ in complaint about McCord

Here’s a statement House Speaker Beth Harwell emailed to media today in response to a complaint filed against House Clerk Joe McCord by Rep. Billy Spivey, R-Lewisburg:

“It is no secret that Representative Spivey is a long-time defender of Jeremy Durham’s and is upset about his expulsion at the special session–which Rep. Spivey failed to attend. Rep. Spivey did not want the Attorney General’s report on Durham released to the public and would not sign off on the report. Just as Durham lashed out last week at those who expelled him, his supporters–including Rep. Spivey–are doing the same this week.

“It is irresponsible for Rep. Spivey to involve himself in something without verifying the facts and in harassing our employees by releasing an inaccurate compilation of events. It is disrespectful for him to attempt to play political football with our state employees and their jobs, all because he personally disagreed with Jeremy Durham’s expulsion.

“I take all allegations of harassment seriously. Personnel issues are always handled by Legislative Administration in a professional manner, and they seek to reach a satisfactory conclusion for all parties. Our legislative staff does an outstanding job for every one of our members, and I sincerely appreciate the work they do.”

Note: Previous post HERE.

Durham hit Florida fan during UT football game

Former state Rep. Jeremy Durham hit a University of Florida fan in the face during the University of Tennessee’s football game Saturday and was escorted out of Neyland Stadium by a law enforcement officer, reports The Tennessean.

Several witnesses confirmed an officer approached Durham and asked him to leave. The recently expelled lawmaker complied and was escorted out of the stands by a Blount County sheriff’s deputy.

Photos and video obtained by The Tennessean verify that Durham was approached by the deputy and others after the hitting incident.

When initially approached by event staff, Durham said, “Did you see what he did? He pushed me. And I pushed his sunglasses off.”

A Tennessee fan who saw what happened said Durham was sitting with his wife and state Sen. Brian Kelsey, a longtime friend of Durham’s. The Tennessee fan said a particularly boisterous Florida fan was yelling loudly, and at one point Durham responded to the yells. The Florida fan started yelling at Durham. Once the Florida fan yelled at Durham, the Tennessee fan said Durham turned around and hit the man in the face.

“As he hit the guy’s face, almost slapped at his face, he caused the guy’s glasses to fly off his face. (The glasses) probably went 10 to 12 people down the aisle and one row in front,” said the fan, who requested anonymity for fear of retaliation.

…David Williams, son of former Tennessee House Speaker Kent Williams, who was seated three rows behind the Florida fan and four rows behind Durham, said, “I saw Mr. Durham turn around and basically smack the guy in the face and it knocked the sun glasses off his head.” Continue reading

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.

Andy Miller company settles Florida fraud claim for $7.75M

The wealthy Republican donor who took campaign money as investments from now-expelled lawmaker Jeremy Durham has agreed to pay $7.75 million to settle allegations he and his brother defrauded a federal military health care program through their pharmaceutical business in Florida, reports The Tennessean.

Andy Miller and his brother Tracy Miller operate Healthmark Investment Trust, which has an ownership stake in a Florida company called QMedRx Inc., according to a settlement agreement from Middle District of Florida U.S. Attorney A. Lee Bentley III.

Bentley’s office accuses the Millers and QMedRx of submitting fraudulent claims for reimbursement from TRICARE, a federal health care program for military members and their families.

The government sought penalties and fines from the owners who participated in the fraud, according to a news release issued Sept. 14.

“The United States attorney’s office is committed to protecting TRICARE and other federal health care programs from fraud,” Bentley said in a news release. “Those who violate the anti-kickback statute to generate business will be held accountable.”

A spokesman for the office declined to comment beyond the information included in the settlement agreement. The agreement — which indicates the settlement is neither an admission of guilt from the Millers nor a concession of a weak case from the federal government — shows the pattern of a kickback fraud scheme.

Bentley’s office says QMedRx violated the federal “anti-kickback statute,” a law that bans the exchange of anything valuable in order to receive a referral for business with a federal health care program. The settlement says people were paid incentives to get from doctors costly compound prescriptions, made through combining several different medications. Those prescriptions were then paid for by the federal government through the TRICARE program.

…Miller said the people who obtained the prescriptions from the doctors were classified as contract workers, and the government said they were employees of QMedRx.

“The claims resolved by the settlement are allegations against QMedRx only, and there has been no determination of liability, but to avoid delay, uncertainty, inconvenience and expense of protracted litigation, we agreed to settle for a portion of our profits,” Miller said in an email to The Tennessean.

…Miller and his family own several health care companies and are big donors for some Republican candidates. That includes Durham, who also invested some of his own campaign funds into one of Miller’s companies. State campaign finance regulators found out about the investment while investigating Durham’s campaign finances, which show a $191,000 discrepancy between his campaign finance report and his bank accounts.

Harwell, Haslam back new rules on investing campaign funds

House Speaker Beth Harwell says she’s having legislation drafted to put some rules in place for legislators investing campaign funds in private companies, reports The Tennessean. Gov. Bill Haslam says he’d support additional disclosure of investments.

This comes as the Registry of Election Finance is investigating former state Rep. Jeremy Durham’s investment of campaign money in a company owned by Andy Miller, a well-known GOP donor who’s given money to Durham in the past.

“The governor believes it is good policy to disclose campaign investments just like personal disclosures made annually to the Tennessee Ethics Commission,” said spokeswoman Jennifer Donnals. The personal disclosures require public officials to report any investments worth $10,000 or more.

Harwell, R-Nashville, state Sen. Doug Overbey, R-Marvylle, and Rep. Cameron Sexton, R-Crossville, said separately there should be more transparency and regulations when Tennessee public officials invest their campaign funds.

“I do not personally believe campaign contributions should be invested in private companies. I have directed our legal staff to research these issues and work with the Registry of Election Finance to identify the best remedy, so that legislation can be introduced to address it,” Harwell said in an email Monday.

“I believe in and support full disclosure and transparency in our campaign finance reports, and will always support legislation to that end. We should always strive to keep up to date on best practices, and I will be supportive of legislation seeking to address increased transparency or regulations on gift-giving or investments.”

…Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville, agreed there should be more transparency but didn’t go as far as to suggest legislation.
“I think it is entirely appropriate that we require full disclosure of a campaign’s investments and interests, just as we do for personal interests and investments,” the retiring lawmaker said.

“While investments in campaign accounts should be permissible, they should be limited to investments that are public and available to all — publicly-traded stocks, mutual funds, certificates of deposit, etc. — to eliminate even the appearance of undue influence.”

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

Rep. Rogers draws write-in opponent over Durham vote

A Hendersonville woman dissatisfied with state Rep. Courtney Rogers’ vote against expelling fellow lawmaker Jeremy Durham has formally filed as a write-in candidate against Rogers, reports The Tennessean.

Sibyl Reagan, co-founder of Sumner County’s grassroots group Strong Schools, filed a Certificate of Write-In Candidacy on Thursday with the Sumner County Election Office.

First elected in 2012, Rogers, R-Goodlettsville, is seeking her third term in the legislature representing the 45th House district. She defeated Sumner County School Board Chairman Beth Cox in the Republican primary in August and is running unopposed in the general election.

“Right now the voters of the 45th District have one option and I wasn’t happy with that option in light of the vote that happened Tuesday,” said Reagan.

Rogers was one of two legislators to cast dissenting votes in a bid to expel Durham in the wake of an Attorney General’s report where 22 women accused him of inappropriate sexual behavior. Rep. Terri Lynn Weaver, R-Lancaster, also represents part of Sumner County and voted along with Rogers.

Casada, Sargent deny Durham kiss and hug claims

Ousted Rep. Jeremy Durham tells WSMV=TV that two prominent Republican legislators have hugged or kissed women at the Legislative Plaza. He also declared that another lawmaker who voted to remove him from office has smoked marijuana at the state Capitol and several others have consumed alcohol at legislative offices.

Durham did not name the individual he alleged smoked marijuana, but he did identify others for different claims.

“Charles Sargent, that’s who I’m talking about,” Durham said. “I’ve watched him kiss women on the mouth in Legislative Plaza. But I can’t even, like, send a remotely flirtatious text message.”

In July, the Attorney General released a report that accuses Durham of sexually harassing 22 women at the Legislature. The investigation also alleged Durham had sex with a college student in his office after providing her alcohol.

Durham denies he had sex or even made sexual contact with the women interviewed in the report.

Instead, he’s raising questions about his former colleagues.
“You know, the Glen Casada, the Charles Sargent, like let’s all hang out and hug on women,” Durham said. “That’s the ones that are in power.”

So is any of this actually true?

On Thursday Rep. Charles Sargent, R-Franklin, denied kissing women on the mouth at the legislature, only acknowledging the occasional hug or peck on the cheek if he knows the person.

“I don’t know where this young man is coming from,” Sargent said in a phone interview. “I feel sorry for him. We have a young man whose life is falling apart.”

Rep. Glen Casada, R-Thompson’s Station, echoed those statements.
“I understand he’s hurting and he’s angry. I wish the best for him,” Casada said in a phone interview.

He added: “I hug women at church. I hug women at the Capitol. I hug men. I think hugging is proper, if done correctly,” Casada said.

But Durham didn’t stop there. He named lawmakers who he said regularly drink in their office.

Those men did not return calls from Channel 4. But even Durham admits, he too drank on state property.

“I have drank in my office before,” Durham said. “I did keep alcohol in my refrigerator, I did.”

When asked if she would look into these claims, Speaker Beth Harwell stated, “Jeremy has again called 22 victims liars, and he has no credibility. Beyond that, I have no additional comment.”

Durham eyes lawsuit against the state over ouster

A day after his expulsion from the Tennessee Legislature, former state Rep. Jeremy Durham is telling Nashville television stations that plans a lawsuit against the state over the ouster.

Durham told News 2 (WKRN) Wednesday he is likely to file suit against the State of Tennessee out of principle. He couldn’t elaborate on how much he’s seeking in damages… While Durham has admitted to being too flirtatious at times, he insists he never harassed or was inappropriate with anyone during his time in office.

“A lot of the allegations though, if you look at what they’re saying, most of it is like ‘He asked me to get a beer.’ That’s most of the allegations,” said Durham. “If getting a beer is all it takes, then we need to expel a lot of the General Assembly, not just me.”

Durham claims the attorney general’s findings – that he had sex with a woman in his Capitol Hill office – are “completely untrue.”

And he also says his expulsion from the legislature during the special-called session was unconstitutional.

“I think everyone in there who voted realized that they voted on rules, those rules weren’t followed,” Durham told News 2. “I was entitled to a hearing and I didn’t get it. And Speaker Harwell still gets to gavel me out.” Continue reading