Tag Archives: Jeremy Durham

Durham tax returns facing subpoena

The state Registry of Election Finance plans to subpoena expelled Rep. Jeremy Durham’s federal tax returns as part of an investigation into whether he used campaign funds for personal expenses, according to The Tennessean.

The state must obtain more records to learn about any potential violations and to uphold the integrity of the organization, said board Chairman Tom Lawless during a meeting Wednesday.

“This organization stands for making them do it right. And I’ve got some real serious, serious concerns — as we all have — that he may not have done it right. Or he was so mixing and matching his personal finances, business finance, whatever proclivities he might have had out there,” Lawless said.

The state House of Representatives expelled Durham by a 70-2 vote on Tuesday, only the second expulsion since the Civil War … Few representatives referenced the ongoing state campaign finance investigation, also spurred by the attorney general after a former Durham employee said Durham asked him to take money from his campaign account and put it into his title company.

Durham refutes that claim, pointing to a recent state registry memo that notes that an expenditure to the former employee may not have come directly from Durham’s campaign account. But Durham did acknowledge, in a wide-ranging eight-page letter sent to colleagues on Monday, that the $191,000 discrepancy between his campaign finance report and campaign bank accounts discovered by the state is due to large investments.

Recently, prominent GOP donor Andy Miller confirmed that Durham invested campaign funds into his account. Durham also recently closed his title company. Drew Rawlins, executive director of the Bureau of Ethics and Campaign finance, said the closure would have no affect on the registry’s ability to obtain Durham records.

Lawless and the rest of the state registry said there’s still more that needs to be investigated, and that the tax returns could potentially shed new light on how Durham may have or have not used campaign funds.

…”I’d like to get this sordid detail finished, to the end, and close the chapter of Mr. Durham,” Lawless said.

…Rawlins said he anticipates the investigation will be complete by October or November.

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

Womick files ethics complaints against Harwell

State Rep. Rick Womick has filed five separate ethics complaints against House Speaker Beth Harwell related to her handling of the investigation into Rep. Jeremy Durham, reports Nashville Post Politics.

Womick’s first complaint alleges Harwell began an investigation into Durham based solely on media reports, in the absence of a formal complaint from anyone. The second ethics complaint says Harwell’s decision to move Durham from his Legislative Plaza office and limit his access to the Capitol was in direction violation of the state constitution because “only by a vote of the full House can a member of the Tennessee General Assembly be punished.”

The third complaint says Harwell’s creation of the Ad Hoc Select Committee, which authorized the attorney general’s investigation into Durham, was appointed unconstitutionally. But Womick’s fourth complaint alleges that Harwell illegally asked the AG’s office to start an investigation before the Ad Hoc Select Committee existed. The final complaint questions the constitutionality of the expulsion process as Harwell has directed it through the special session.

Rep. Steve McDaniel, the chair of the House Ethics Committee, said he hadn’t had time to read the complaints yet, but legal counsel was reviewing them.

“If [the complaints are procedurally] found to be compliant according to rules, we will have a meeting of the Ethics Committee in the next day or two and decide if they rise to the level of action,” McDaniel said.

Durham expelled from House with 70-2 vote

By Eric Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The vote to expel a sitting Tennessee lawmaker for the first time in 36 years was overwhelming, even though House members had argued vehemently about whether a series of sexual harassment allegations were enough to boot one of their own.

The state House voted 70-2 on Tuesday to remove Rep. Jeremy Durham. He surprised his colleagues by showing up in the chamber and contending that he shouldn’t be ousted. Then he abruptly left in mid-debate.

(Note: The two no votes came from Reps. Courtney Rogers, R-Goodlettsville, and Terri Lynn Weaver, R-Lancaster. Four lawmakers blue lighted the resolution (present not voting): Reps. David Byrd, R-Waynesboro; Jimmy Eldridge, R-Jackson; Andy Holt, R-Dresden; and Antonio Parkinson, D-Memphis.

Twelve legislators who attended Wednesday’s session did not vote at all, including Durham (who had left the chamber when the vote was taken). Others declining to vote were Reps. Shelia Butt, R-Columbia, Barbara Cooper, D-Memphis; Tilman Goins, R-Morristown; Matthew Hill, R-Jonesborough; Timothy Hill, R-Blountville; Mary Littleton, R-Dickson; John Ragan, R-Oak Ridge; Jerry Sexton, R-Bean Station; Mike Sparks, R-Smyrna; Micah Van Huss, R-Gray; and Rick Womick, R-Rockvale.

Ten members were absent: Reps. Harry Brooks, R-Knoxville; Dale Carr, R-Sevierville; John DeBerry, D-Memphis; Jud Matheny, R-Tullahoma; Jimmy Matlock, R-Lenoir City; Bob Ramsey, R-Maryville; Billy Spivey, R-Lewisburg; Brian Terry, R-Murfreesboro; Curry Todd, R-Collierville; and Mark White, R-Memphis.)
Continue reading

AP story on squabbles over ditching Durham

By Erik Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A special legislative session to fix a costly drunken driving law kicked off Monday with a squabble about how or whether Tennessee lawmakers should go about trying to expel one of their own.

Republican Gov. Bill Haslam hastily called the special session because Tennessee stands to lose $60 million in federal road money because of a new state law that increased the maximum allowable blood alcohol content for drivers below the drinking age.

While quickly fixing that to bring it back into line with federal zero-tolerance standards appears to be headed for easy approval, an unrelated ouster effort against a lawmaker who was the subject of an extensive sexual harassment investigation led to heated exchanges on the House floor.

The probe detailed allegations that Republican Rep. Jeremy Durham of Franklin had improper sexual contact with at least 22 women over the course of his four years in office. 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

Some TN history on ousting state legislators

By Erik Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The last time Tennessee lawmakers took a vote to expel a sitting member of the General Assembly, the ousted representative issued a stern warning to his colleagues: “I won’t be the last.”

But for the next 36 years no other lawmaker has been booted under the Legislature’s constitutional power to discipline or oust members deemed to have engaged in “disorderly behavior.”

House Speaker Beth Harwell says that’s likely to change during this week’s special legislative session. The Nashville Republican told reporters last week that an effort to remove state Rep. Jeremy Durham has enough support to meet the two-thirds vote requirement to expel him. 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.

Harwell backs ouster of Durham in special session

By Erik Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Next week’s special legislative session will also present an opportunity to oust a lawmaker who was the subject of an extensive sexual harassment probe, Republican House Speaker Beth Harwell’s office said Wednesday.

Gov. Bill Haslam called the special session with the limited purpose of fixing a drunken driving law to avoid losing $60 million in federal road money.

But research by the House clerk and legal staff found that an effort to remove a sitting member would be considered “procedural” under the chamber’s rules and therefore permissible during the special session, said Harwell spokeswoman Kara Owen.

Owen said that a resolution to oust Republican Rep. Jeremy Durham of Franklin is expected to be filed before next week’s session, and that Harwell plans to vote for the measure. Continue reading

Durham closes business tied to campaign investigation

State Rep. Jeremy Durham has closed the title company business that ties into an investigation over whether the Franklin Republican diverted campaign money to personal use, reports the Tennessean.

In addition to serving as a lawmaker, Durham is an attorney. Until recently, he operated a title company called Battleground Title & Escrow LLC, a company used for real estate transactions that was founded in November 2014, according to documents from the secretary of state.

But on Aug. 15, the status of his business went from active to dissolved to terminated, according to state records. Adam Ghassemi, a spokesman for the secretary of state’s office, said a “notice of dissolution” and “articles of termination” were filed by Durham with the office Aug. 15. That means Durham can’t continue to legally conduct business under the name Battleground Title & Escrow.

“The voluntary dissolution is filed on behalf of the entity by an authorized party when the entity is winding down a business,” Ghassemi said. “Articles of termination mean the entity will be legally terminated.”

…In May, Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery announced a former Durham employee named Benton Smith had given his office a signed statement accusing Durham of using campaign funds for his title company. The announcement came before Slatery released his final report from the investigation that revealed allegations of sexual misconduct by Durham.

…Durham has adamantly denied the allegations from Smith, calling him a disgruntled employee, but the findings were turned over to the registry. The registry announced it would investigate Durham’s actions…Earlier this week (Durham’s attorney, Peter) Strianse said U.S. Attorney David Rivera has issued two subpoenas related to Durham’s campaign finances, possibly to explore whether any tax violation occurred.