NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – There was a proceeding Tuesday seen only two other times in Tennessee’s history-House members expelling one of their own.
Former Tennessee House member Jeremy Durham has maintained he had done little wrong in the moments before he was expelled, which comes after allegations of sexual harassment.
Those allegations were outlined in a scathing report by the Tennessee Attorney General that says 22 Capitol Hill women were subjected his harassment and inappropriate behavior.
In the now-historical decision, lawmakers voted 70 to 2 to oust Durham-47 Republicans and 23 Democrats. Four House members in attendance chose not to take part in the vote.
The same members who had voted him into a leadership role two years earlier tossed him out before his term was finished even though he had been beaten in a primary last month.
“I hereby declare Rep. Jeremy Durham expelled from 109th General Assembly of state of Tennessee,” House Speaker Beth Harwell pronounced from the podium.
It means Durham won’t get a legislative pension because it requires a four-year term.
All that followed extraordinary moments on the House floor where Durham first came before lawmakers in what’s called the “well.”
“I have not been afforded the opportunity to present my own evidence in a non-public impartial and fair hearing as guaranteed under the rules,” the ousted lawmaker said.
“I think I should be allowed to confront accusers, cross examine the testimony against me, and present my own evidence, which makes much of the anonymous hearsay in the AG report seem much less persuasive,” Durham continued.
Only two seemed to agree with Durham, both women, and voted against his expulsion.
But many House members feared the identities of the 22 women who spoke to the attorney would be compromised, but that did not happen after an emotional plea from Speaker Harwell.
“And there are not many in this room that in some way doesn’t fear Jeremy Durham, so don’t do this to these women. Don’t you dare,” she said.
“It’s amazing what people will say as long as it’s not happening to them. I can’t vote for their bills anymore,” said Durham as he left the Capitol.
When asked for comment on the expulsion, Gov. Bill Haslam’s Press Secretary Jennifer Donnals told News 2, “This was a decision made by the House, and the governor agrees with it.”
The last time a member was expelled from the General Assembly was in 1980. Then-Rep. Robert Fisher, who was ousted on a 92-1 vote after he was convicted of asking for a bribe to kill a bill.
The only other time in history happened in 1866.
Statements on Durham’s expulsion
Rep. Terri Lynn Weaver (R-Lancaster): “The procedures involved in the process of expulsion are paramount and I believe those procedures were compromised today. In order to protect everyone, even bad actors, due process must be a priority. No complaints were ever filed against Rep. Durham. After today’s episode, any member can be expelled on rumors or hearsay without facing ones accusers — this puts justice on a very slippery slope.”
State Representative Courtney Rogers (R-Goodlettsville): “Procedure and law matters — it protects the accused, the accusers, and those of us called upon to judge. I believe in that process; it defines us as a just nation. My vote is reflective of my responsibility to adhere to those procedures designed to establish guilt or innocence as fairly as possible.”