EDITOR'S NOTE: The Tennessean is not identifying Rep. Jane Doe #33 in order to protect the identity of Jane Doe #24, who is a victim of sexual harassment.
House Democrats are calling on an unidentified lawmaker accused of firing a staff member in retaliation for interactions with expelled lawmakerJeremy Durham to resign.
House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Stewart and Rep. Bo Mitchell, both D-Nashville, said they believe the actions of Rep. Jane Doe #33, as she is referred to in the scathing attorney general report on Durham, show she fired her staff member as a direct correlation to that staff member being sexually harassed by Durham.
They also named the lawmaker who they believe to be Rep. Jane Doe #33, based on an unsourced media report. They acknowledged they had no direct evidence to indicate the identity of Rep. Jane Doe #33, but said it is imperative that the person who they believe to be the lawmaker respond to the accusations.
“(Rep. Jane Doe #33), as far as I know as of 15 minutes ago, had not responded and I think her silence speaks volumes. I’m here to call on her today to respond to this allegation," Stewart said.
Stewart said (Rep. Jane Doe #33) needs to confirm or deny the allegation that she is Rep. Jane Doe #33 and that she fired a staffer over allegations of sexual harassment. “If that’s the case, the allegations are true, (Rep. Jane Doe #33) needs to resign.”
“The first step is that Rep. (Jane Doe #33) right now today needs to tell everybody what the story is. Her silence as we sit here today is deafening.”
Stewart also said Rep. #Jane Doe #33 could alternatively establish that she is not the lawmaker mentioned in the AG’s report, which would clear her name.
Stewart confirmed that he had not talked to Rep. Jane Doe #33 or the former assistant, Jane Doe #24.
The Tennessean's efforts to contact Rep. Jane Doe #33 on Thursday were unsuccessful. Cade Cothren, a spokesman for the House Republican Caucus, said the lawmaker Democrats identified as Rep. Jane Doe #33 has been out of the country for several days and has limited cell phone service.
The attorney general report, which led to the expulsion of Durham on Sept. 13, says staff member Jane Doe #24 was fired at the end of the 2013 legislative session after Rep. Jane Doe #33 found out she was "hanging out" with Durham.
"When the session ended, Human Resources immediately notified Jane Doe #24 that Rep. Jane Doe #33 wanted her reassigned...(Jane Doe #24) heard from legislative staff member John Doe #32 that Rep. Jane Doe #33 did not speak well of her to other members. As a result, she said she was afraid to make Rep. Durham mad, thinking he would take Rep. Jane Doe #33/s side against her since they were close friends," the report states.
Jane Doe 24 previously told The Tennessean she believes she was fired due to a relationship between Durham and Rep. Jane Doe #33. Rep. Jane Doe #33 told the attorney general she had never seen any inappropriate conduct, and told The Tennessean she and Durham are close friends.
The attorney general report says Durham tried to kiss Jane Doe 24, tried to invite himself into her apartment and regularly sent her messages. Durham has denied sexual misconduct.
Stewart and Mitchell also want an additional investigation into the actions of Rep. Jane Doe #33. If House Speaker Beth Harwell -- who they accuse of orchestrating a "cover up" pertaining to Rep. Jane Doe #33 -- or the attorney general do not push for more of an investigation, then Stewart said he believes the U.S. Department of Justice should become involved.
Rep. Barbara Cooper, D-Memphis, held campaign fliers as she stood with Stewart and Mitchell before briefly addressing reporters.
The call from Mitchell and Stewart comes two days after Sen. Lee Harris and Rep. G.A. Hardaway, both Memphis Democrats, said the firing of Jane Doe #24 may have broken the law and the issue needed to be investigated.
The same day Hardaway and Harris made their call, a spokeswoman for Harwell declined to say say whether she would initiate an investigation into the firing of Jane Doe #24.
Legislative workplace harassment policy indicates any investigations must remain confidential until they are complete, when any findings go into the personnel file of the person found to have done something wrong. Connie Ridley, director of legislative administration, has declined to say whether any such investigation is underway.
Through a spokesperson, Harwell said she is confident that the legislature's personnel processes copmly with state and federal law.