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Tenn. House boots member accused of harassment

| Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2016, 6:12 p.m.

NASHVILLE — The Tennessee House voted Tuesday to expel Republican state Rep. Jeremy Durham following allegations of widespread sexual harassment.

The chamber voted 70-2 to expel a sitting member for the first time in 36 years.

The vote to expel Durham of Franklin followed an attorney general's investigation that detailed allegations of improper sexual contact with at least 22 women over the course of his four years in office.

Among other things, the report alleged that Durham plied a 20-year-old college student with a cooler full of beer and had sex with her in his office in 2014. Another woman interviewed was a lobbyist who nicknamed Durham “Pants Candy” after she said he rummaged in his pocket before suggestively offering her a dirty, unwrapped mint.

Durham denied that the allegations in the report should be considered sexual harassment, and argued that a floor session did not give him enough opportunity to mount a defense.

“This is an expulsion proceeding — the idea that I would have due process right now is ridiculous,” Durham said. “If somebody wants to let me confront accusers, let me present my own evidence, that's fine. But this is not the forum to do it.”

Durham said he had assembled materials about each of the incidents outlined in the report, but that the open floor session wasn't the proper venue to bring them up. “I assure you, you do not want me releasing some of the things that are in this binder,” he said.

Durham left the chamber after a series of questions posed by House Democratic Leader Mike Stewart of Nashville, causing an uproar among other lawmakers who wanted to pose more questions. Democrats tried to get House Speaker Beth Harwell to order Durham to return to the chamber, but the motion was voted down by Republicans.

The last member to be expelled from the General Assembly was then-Rep. Robert Fisher, who was ousted on a 92-1 vote in 1980. The Elizabethton Republican had been convicted of asking for a bribe to kill a bill.

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