NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – State Representative Jeremy Durham’s office has been moved and his access to certain buildings limited amid an investigation into alleged inappropriate behavior.
The changes were made upon a recommendation from the Tennessee attorney general, who suggested that while they continue their investigation interim measures be taken “to prevent future inappropriate contact.”
AG Herbert Slatery was asked to investigate Durham by Speaker Beth Harwell after allegations arose he sent inappropriate text messages and made unwanted comments to women, including interns.
Harwell also appointed an Ad Hoc Select Committee to begin discussing sexual harassment within the legislature.
In a letter dated April 5, the attorney general told the committee that so far their investigation has revealed “a pattern of conduct” by Rep. Durham directed “toward a number of women who either worked for, or formerly worked with, the legislature.”
The state conducted 34 interviews with women, a number of whom reportedly refused to be alone with or avoid Durham, a situation the attorney general says has affected their ability to perform their jobs.
Furthermore, AG Slatery says the information they obtained indicated Durham occupied a superior position to the women, obtained personal information from them under the guise of legislative business, initiated contact about non-legislative matters and attempted to meet the women alone, “usually involved alcohol in his interaction with the women,” and “he made inappropriate comments of a sexual nature or engaged in physical contact with some women.”
Due to these findings, the attorney general suggested the Ad Hoc Select Committee and Speaker Harwell take measures to ensure the alleged behavior does not continue as the investigation goes on.
And on Thursday, Harwell announced changes are in fact being put in place.
“I feel compelled to take proactive steps to protect all parties concerned until the conclusion of the investigation,” Harwell said in a statement. “This is based upon the attached letter from the Attorney General, and the recommendations from the Ad Hoc Select Committee.”
Harwell went on to say Durham’s office has been moved from the War Memorial Building to the ground floor of the Rachel Jackson Building.
Rep. Durham’s access to both buildings along with the Legislative Plaza has been limited, and he is only allowed on the second floor of the State Capitol for official legislative business.
“These actions will be taken immediately,” Harwell added, saying, “I want the investigation to be thorough and complete. I encourage anyone with information relevant to the investigation to contact the Attorney General’s office.”
Democrats on the Hill blasted the speaker of the house, saying she took too long to take action on the allegations against Durham.
Mike Stewart, Chairman of the House Democratic Caucus responded Thursday, saying, “The question is why did the House Republican leadership and Speaker Harwell know about this for months and take none of the actions? Why are we doing it now months and months and months after these allegations first came to light?”
Durham spoke with News 2 Thursday, who claims he wasn’t given a fair chance to defend himself.
Mary Mancini, Chair of the Tennessee Democratic Party, said a huge question is what did they know and when did they know.
“Second of all, they want to move Jeremy Durham to another office building. Are there not any women in that office building? It doesn’t make sense,” she added.
“What about exiling him from the Capitol for good? What about expelling him from the House? There are serious actions,” Mancini added.
He told News 2 he has not had a female staffer or intern and that he’s blown away that the Attorney General released the report without consulting him first.
Since the allegations arose, Durham has resigned from his position as House Majority Whip and decided to step away from the Republican caucus.
However, last week, Durham announced he’s running for re-election to the Tennessee General Assembly.
The investigation into Durham’s conduct is ongoing.Click here to read more about the latest with Rep. Jeremy Durham.