Campaign finance officials join probe of Jeremy Durham's attorney account

State campaign finance officials are expanding their probe into former Rep. Jeremy Durham to include an examination of the money he made while working as an attorney.

On Wednesday, the Tennessee Registry of Election Finance - an entity within the state Bureau of Ethics and Campaign Finance - unanimously approved plans to expand it's search into Durham's campaign finances to include issues related to client's money placed in trust accounts.

Attorneys, like Durham, use trust accounts to hold their clients' funds.

Tom Lawless, who serves as chairman of the registry, said the board's move came after consulting with the Tennessee Board of Professional Responsibility.

The latest move by the registry confirms what a source previously told The Tennessean: the state Board of Professional Responsibility is looking into the possibility that Durham improperly used money given to him by his clients.

Durham, who is also facing a probe by federal investigators, closed his title companyin August.

The ongoing probe by the registry began in June after Attorney General Herbert Slatery told campaign finance officials about a former employee of Durham's who said the now-expelled lawmaker directed him to move money between a campaign account and a title company account.

Durham has denied wrongoing, saying the investigations won't reveal any misconduct.

Last month, state campaign finance officials called for more subpoenas to complete its investigation, which is expected to conclude before the end of the year.

Officials have already uncovered a $191,000 discrepancy between Durham's campaign finance reports and his bank accounts. They've also discovered that Durham has made investments using his campaign funds in a company owned by Andy Miller, a well-known Republican donor.

Durham has also spent nearly $1,000 in campaign donations to purchase tickets from the University of Tennessee, according to his latest campaign disclosure statement.

Although state law prohibits purchasing tickets to sporting events for personal use, Durham would be allowed to buy them with his campaign money if the seats were given to constituents. After The Tennessean published a story about his UT ticket purchase, Durham amended his latest campaign filing to note the tickets were for constituents.

Durham purchased two tickets and a parking pass to five University of Tennessee football games this year, including the games the Volunteers played against Virginia Tech and Florida, according to Karen Ann Simsen, director of media and internal relations for the University of Tennessee.

Durham was kicked out of the UT game against Florida after witnesses said he slapped a Gators fans in the face.

The Franklin Republican has two tickets for UT's games against Alabama, Kentucky and Missouri. All tickets Durham purchased range - depending on the game - from $55 to $152 a seat. Peter Strianse, a criminal defense attorney representing Durham, has not responded to questions about the ticket purchases.

This story originally appeared on The Tennessean’s website.


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