Jeremy Durham

Judge slashes Jeremy Durham’s campaign finance fines by 75%

A judge has slashed ousted state Rep. Jeremy Durham’s record campaign fine by 75%, The Tennessean’s Joel Ebert reports.

The Franklin Republican had been hit with $465,000 in fines in 2017 for a series of violations. Administrative Law Judge Steve Darnell in a ruling dated Friday that Durham should instead have to pay $110,000 in fines.

The Registry of Campaign Finance does not have have an “an unbridled right to dole out civil penalties,” Darnell worte. The panel had not proven that Durham had spent money on items like sunglasses and drycleaning in an inappropriate way. The judge also said campaign money the former lawmaker spent on his handgun carry permit and continuing legal education could have been considered legitimate expenditures.

Darnell also found nothing wrong with Durham’s investment of $100,000 in campaign funds into a company owned by conservative donor Andy Miller Jr. or a $30,000 loan to a professional gambler. The legislature only subsequently banned that sort of spending of campaign funds, the judge said.

The House voted 70-2 in 2016 to expel Durham after a state attorney general’s investigation detailed allegations of serial sexual misconduct.

Resolution to oust Byrd won’t be on calendar. But is one even needed?

Embattled Rep. David Byrd (R-Waynesboro) attends a House Education Committee meeting in Nashville on March 28, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

The Tennessean’s Natalie Allison reports that a resolution seeking to oust state Rep. David Byrd (R-Waynesboro) over sexual misconduct allegations dating back to when he was a girls’ high school basketball coach in the 1980s won’t be placed on the House calendar for this week’s special session.

If Rep. Gloria Johnson (D-Knoxville) wants her resolution to be taken up, it would require a two-thirds majority to suspend the rules — the same margin required to oust a sitting member.

But there’s a fairly obvious workaround, if past experience with the ouster of then-Rep. Jeremy Durham (R-Franklin) is any guide. During the 2016 special session to undo a drunken driving bill that threatened $60 million in highway funds for running afoul of federal guidelines, Rep. Susan Lynn (R-Mt. Juliet) stood to announce a motion to oust Durham over the sexual misconduct allegations laid out in a state attorney general’s report.

There was no accompanying resolution for the successful effort to remove Durham, which rankled the former lawmaker’s few supporters in the chamber. They included then-Rep. Rick Womick (R-Murfreesboro), who likened the House to a “banana republic” if any member could just stand and make a motion to oust another.

But Joe McCord, the House clerk at the time, cited the following provision in the Tennessee Constitution outlining the power to remove members:

Section 12. Each House may determine the rules of its proceedings, punish its members for disorderly behavior, and, with the concurrence of two-thirds, expel a member, but not a second time for the same offense; and shall have all other powers necessary for a branch of the Legislature of a free state.

While the General Assembly is required to stay within the governor’s call for the special session, which are to pass updates to court rules that didn’t get taken up during this spring’s regular session, internal housekeeping matters like leadership elections are also allowed.

Byrd, who was recorded by one of the now-adult women apologizing for unspecified sins in the past, has been urged by Lee not to seek re-election next year.

Byrd running for re-election despite sexual misconduct scandal

Rep. David Byrd (R-Waynesboro) has announced he will seek re-election despite allegations of sexual misconduct with three of his teenage basketball players when he was their 28-year-old high school basketball coach.

Byrd spent much of Thursday’s floor session wandering around House chamber trying to drum up support among fellow lawmakers, embracing some of them and exchanging cell phone numbers. Byrd, who incorporates his nickname “Coach” and the outline of a basketball in his logo, may well benefit from this week’s candidate filing deadline to avoid serious opposition in this year’s election.

But Republicans worried about tighter-than-usual races in other districts likely won’t welcome having to defend inevitable political attacks based on Byrd’s candidacy.

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Judge dismisses Durham lawsuit seeking pension and insurance benefits

U.S. District  Court Judge Aleta Trauger dismissed Friday a lawsuit filed by former state Rep.  Jeremy Durham seeking to restore lifetime health care and pension benefits he lost when the state House voted to expel him last year, according to The Tennessean. Continue reading

Fines imposed on former Rep. Durham now total $505,000

The Registry of Election Finance board voted Tuesday to impose another $10,000 civil penalty against former state Rep. Jeremy Durham, reports WTVF. That pushes total financial penalties assessed against Durham to $505,000.

The new fine was levied for wrongly reporting contributions and expenditures by Durham PAC, the political action committee set up by the Franklin County Republican. The Registry previously voted to impose a state record $465,000 in penalties against Durham for multiple violations in his regular campaign account. (Previous post HERE.)

And the Tennessee Ethics Commission has voted to impose $30,000 in penalties against Durham for problems with his filings of conflict-of-interest disclosures. (Previous post HERE.)

TBI agents, investigating former Rep. Jeremy Durham, ask legislators about bribery

TBI agents recently interviewed at least two state legislators – House Majority Leader Glen Casada, R-Franklin, and Rep. Andy Holt, R-Dresden — in conjunction with a criminal investigation into former Rep. Jerry Durham, reports The Tennessean. The agents specifically asked about bribery, but Casada and Holt said they were unaware of any such activity.

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Ethics Commission imposes $30K fine on former Rep. Jeremy Durham

The Tennessee Ethics Commission Tuesday voted to impose a $30,000 fine on former state Rep. Jeremy Durham, who already faces $465,000 in penalties imposed by the Registry of Election Finance, reports the Tennessean.

The registry fines were for violation of campaign finance laws. The Ethics Commission penalty is for Durham’s failure to include all sources of income in his conflict-of-interest disclosure filed while he was a legislator.

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Durham lawsuit contends his ouster was unconstitutional

Former state Rep. Jeremy Durham filed a federal lawsuit Monday contending his ouster from the state House was unconstitutional and the state should still provide him his pension and health insurance, reports The Tennessean.

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Durham showing ‘total disrespect’ for campaign finance laws with new filing?

Former Rep. Jeremy Durham, who reported to the Registry of Election Finance in January that he had a $109,147.39 remaining in his old campaign account, filed a report Thursday that left blank the space for filling in January amount and instead there’s a handwritten note that reads “Ask Moeck.” In the space for the amount in the campaign fund on June 30 there’s the figure $65,204.94. There are zeros in all the places to be filled in with receipts and expenditures.

The Tennessean got an explanation of sorts from Peter Strianse, an attorney defending the ousted-from-office Franklin  Republican against a Registry finding that he repeatedly violated state campaign finance laws. Excerpt from the newspaper’s report:

Jay Moeck is the registry’s investigator, whose probe into Durham’s campaign finances resulted in the recent record-setting $465,000 fine levied against Durham at a June registry meeting.

… Strianse said Thursday his client hasn’t spent any campaign money since January but wasn’t sure what balance to include on his latest report.

“As the campaign finance report clearly states, Mr. Durham’s campaign account has had no activity this year,” Strianse said in an email.

“Since we have yet to receive anything in writing from the registry regarding the results of the June 7 meeting, we are unable to divine what number the registry expects Mr. Durham to include in the previous balance section of the report pending appeal of their unsupported decision.”

…Registry member Tom Lawless saw Durham’s comment about Moeck as an affront to the state.

“That shows his mindset for an authority that oversees these matters and his total disregard for the law,” Lawless said Thursday.

…“He is either admitting that as a member of leadership he couldn’t file a report accurately or completely, which in and of itself is an indictment against him for just arrogance or disregard for a system he was a part of,” Lawless said.

“Or he has filed false reports, and that in and of itself is another issue that the registry may or may not have to address.”

Registry votes to fine Durham $465K for campaign finance violations

The Registry of Election Finance board voted today to levy $465,000 in civil penalties against former state Rep. Jeremy Durham for multiple violations of state campaign finance laws. That’s the biggest such fine ever imposed by the watchdog agency in its 26-year history.

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