NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Results of an investigation into alleged inappropriate behavior of former Tennessee House Whip Jeremy Durham were released Wednesday.
The documents outline Durham’s alleged interactions with 22 women since 2012. Of those alleged incidents, 13 occurred between 2012 and 2014, eight in 2015 and one this year.
Durham is accused of making “sexually suggestive” comments to a lobbyist, saying he “expected something in return for supporting her bill.”
In 2014, the lawmaker reportedly served alcohol to a 20-year-old female college student in his state legislative office and then had sex with her. The woman, who was a political worker at the time, said Durham told her his marriage was “not going to work out.”
Durham and the woman reportedly had sex in his office a second time on the night he was elected as Majority Party Whip.
At one point, Durham is alleged to have invited that same woman over to his home where they had sex. The woman said there was no mention of Durham’s wife at that time.
An intern, according to the documents, also reported Durham tried to kiss her last year.
The most recent complaint against Durham came this past January when he reportedly made comments to a lobbyist about her body.
“The attorney general’s report released today is about one individual’s repulsive and unacceptable conduct,” Rep. Beth Harwell said. “This may be one of the few times in his life he will be held accountable.”
Speaker Harwell put together the committee to investigate Durham earlier this year.
Without citing specifics, a legislative attorney for the committee said there was enough reason to expel Durham from the legislature. However, the attorney said there is not enough time to call the required special session before Durham’s primary, which is less than a month away, as he runs for re-election.
“While the conduct in this report justifies expulsion,” Attorney Doug Himes said. “It is ultimately the voters of the 65th District to decide who best represents their principles and values.
A total of 78 interviews were conducted throughout the attorney general’s investigation.
News 2 reached out to Durham’s lawyer, Bill Harbison, who released the following statement:
We have just read the report, ironically receiving it from the media before we received it from the Attorney General’s office. It reaffirms what we argued yesterday in Court. The investigation has been a politically motivated, unfair and unconstitutional process. Even though nobody ever filed a complaint of sexual harassment, the investigation goes into alleged details with allegations from witnesses whose identity is completely anonymous. Unlike any normal legal proceeding where there is an opportunity to confront witnesses, get notice of subpoenas, or, at the very least, understand the exact allegations against a person, this investigation has been secretive and deceptive from the very beginning. We believe that no fair-minded person should judge Jeremy Durham based on a one-sided, anonymous report.
House Republican Caucus Chair Glen Casada told News 2, “Jeremy told me and the public he didn’t remember these texts and doing these things. He lied to all of us.”
The Ad Hoc Committee that was formed to investigate Durham’s behavior said it’s up to the voters to decide whether Durham can stay in office.
The committee decided the Attorney General’s findings were enough to expel Durham but they won’t. One reason was logistical: the Republican primary is in August and lawmakers aren’t in session. Lawmakers would have to be called back to vote.
So Republicans in the 65th district will decide if Durham or Stan Whitson will be their candidate.
Durham supporters News 2 reached out to wouldn’t go on camera for fear they would be publicly shamed. However, some spoke to News 2’s Jessica Jaglois over the phone.
One said he didn’t think Durham was getting proper due process. Another said he liked Durham because he isn’t part of the establishment.
However, Fairview resident Melinda McReynolds said she voted for Durham four years ago and won’t this time around.
“I was blown away by the report because I didn’t think it went as far as it did,” she said. “I was like, you’re sending out all these mailers with references to Christianity and good values but you’re not really living by that.”
Durham has been campaigning in his district and hasn’t announced any plans to stop.