Attorney General report finds Durham behavior could justify expulsion


Attorney General report finds Durham behavior could justify expulsion

A state Attorney General’s report says that an investigation into sexual harassment claims involved 78 interviews.

A report from the Attorney General’s office has found that Franklin Rep. Jeremy Durham has exhibited conduct worth expulsion from the state legislature.

The Ad Hoc Select Committee approved the final report from the office Attorney General Herbert Slatery.

I thank those willing to come forward and answer questions under this investigation,” Slatery said. “There were a number of people, and there were 22 women who showed courage in coming forward in speaking during this investigation.”

The investigation involved 78 interviews and 185 calls.

Before the Ad Hoc committee meeting, Durham had tried to get a Nashville chancery court judge to stop release of the report, claiming the legislature was overstepping its bounds by asking for the Attorney General’s help in the investigation. He also claimed releasing the report would have irreparable harm on his campaign with early voting start Friday for Williamson County residents.

While the Ad Hoc committee recognized that the report would warrant expulsion, the committee’s lawyer Doug Himes said they would ultimately leave the decison up to the voters in House District 65.

Some of the conduct reported in the investigation included several different examples of inappropriate behavior.

They included late text messages asking the Jane Does in the report to come over.

One of those texts said, “I would like to see you naked around midnight” and “you look really hot in that skirt you are wearing.”

In the account where Durham is said to have texted a Jane Doe at midnight asking to see her naked, the Franklin Republican had been elected Majority Party Whip that day.

Labeled Jane Doe No. 38, she stated in the report that she went to Durham’s legislative office that evening and found him intoxicated.

The two later had sexual contact.

A senior male lobbyist expressed during his interview with the AG that enduring a legislator’s sexual advances is merely part of a female lobbyist’s job.

On page nine of the report, Jane Doe No. 24 expressed that sentiment, explaining that while she felt trapped and awkward, she didn’t want to be “that girl” and wanted to maintain her career in the legislature.

Incidents like those above are listed throughout the Attorney General report. The three lawyers who performed the investigation did so by evaluating his behavior between 2013-2016.

According to the report, Durham did not respond to invitations by investigators to discuss the allegations or to provide his own witnesses.

Durham hasn’t commented for this story.

So how did we get to this point?

The whole question of Durham having behaved inappropriately at the legislature came from an investigation begun by The Tennessean after three women came forward with text messages they say Durham sent to them. He repeatedly denied ever sending them, and had asked The Tennessean to see the messages.

On Jan. 24, Durham stepped down from his leadership position in the GOP caucus. Following the announcement, Speaker Harwell called for his resignation. In that same week, Durham decided to take a leave of absence from the legislature and step away from the caucus entirely.

The first day of his hiatus on Jan. 28, Harwell asked the Attorney General to open an investigation.

Harwell announced on Feb. 4 the creation of a special Ad Hoc committee to lead the investigation. It formally met for the first time on Feb. 8 and gave the Attorney General the full authorization for the investigation.

On April 6, the Slatery released a preliminary report. In it, he deemed Durham as “an ongoing risk to unsuspecting women.” Harwell also moved Durham’s office out of the Legislative Plaza and into the Rachel Jackson building.

The report made public does not include names of the complainants nor other attachments that may indicate the specific content of complaints or investigative interviews. The report is at: http://www.capitol.tn.gov/house/committees/20160713135324970.pdf

Emily West covers Franklin and Williamson County government and schools for Home Page Media Group. Contact her at emily@franklinhomepage.com. Follow her on Twitter via @emwest22.

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