Jeremy Durham: Ouster effort similar to 'medieval beheading'

Rep. Jeremy Durham will attend next week’s special legislative session if he is granted certain conditions, the embattled lawmaker said Thursday.

"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 told WKRN News 2.

He told the TV station he believes without the chance to present evidence and face his accusers the process lawmakers could use to remove him would be more like a “medieval beheading.”

“They’re trying to expel someone who’s never been charged with a crime and never been the subject of a human resources complaint,” Durham told the news organization via text message.

Durham did not respond to a request for comment from The Tennessean.

In his report on Durham that found 22 women who accused the Republican of inappropriate sexual conduct, Attorney General Herbert Slatery said his office gave the Franklin lawmaker multiple opportunities to provide his account.

"Early in the investigation the Office informed Rep. Durham's counsel that we would seek to interview him to give him the opportunity to address any allegations and evidence of inappropriate conduct," Slatery said in the report. "The Office recently made a formal request through Rep. Durham's attorney to interview him as part of the investigation. Representative Durham declined to be interviewed."

When announcing his plans to suspend his re-election effort in July, Durham said there were a handful of interactions that were true but denied most of the allegations without getting into specifics.

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.

On Wednesday, Harwell said there will be an effort to expel Durham when the legislature reconvenes in a special session next week.

Kara Owen, a spokeswoman for Harwell, said the speaker takes seriously the issue of keeping the names of Durham’s accusers anonymous.

“She does not expect their identities to be revealed or that they will be called to testify in any manner,” Owen said. “His response, what time would be afforded, and things of that nature would be limited to what is addressed in the motion, and exactly what that will entail is not yet known.”

House Clerk Joe McCord said if the House adopts similar rules as it has during previous sessions someone could make a motion to place a limit on the amount of time afforded to Durham or others who would speak during the expulsion discussion. An effort to limit time would require only a majority vote.

McCord also said House rules prevent lawmakers from handing out material — known as props — when the chamber is in session. As such, the only way Durham could hand out material or present evidence would be if he were to hand it out to members before the chamber gathers.

This story originally appeared on The Tennessean’s website.


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