Tennessee Legislator: AG Investigation a ‘Witch Hunt,’ Should End Immediately

Nashville, Tennessee—State Rep. Billy Spivey (R-Lewisburg) says Tennessee Attorney General Herb Slatery’s investigation of State Rep. Jeremy Durham (R-Franklin) “reeks of a witch hunt.”

Spivey is one of four members of the Ad Hoc Committee formed in February by Speaker Beth Harwell (R-Nashville), under whose authority the Attorney General is conducting the investigation. He now says the committee should “be dissolved immediately,” in a letter sent Wednesday to Committee Chairman State Rep. Steve McDaniel (R-Parkers Crossroads).

A dissolution would effectively end the AG’s investigation of Durham.  In fact, AG Slatery made clear that the investigation operates only on the authority of Ad Hoc Committee of the Tennessee House of Representatives, in his own advisory opinion released last month in response to a request from State Rep. Rick Womick (R-Rockvale).

“The investigation [conducted by the Attorney General of State Rep. Jeremy Durham] was authorized by resolution of a committee of the Tennessee House of Representatives pursuant to article II, section 12. The resolution narrowly defines the scope of the investigation and specifies that the authorization to investigate may be modified or revoked at the discretion of the committee,” Attorney General Slatery wrote in an advisory opinion published on May 26.

Spivey wants to revoke the Attorney General’s “authorization to investigate” by dissolving the Ad Hoc Committee that initially granted that authorization.

“Dissolving a practically powerless Ad Hoc Committee and thereby removing the basis for the Attorney General’s ongoing investigation seems to be the most reasonable and wise course of action left available to us at this time,” Spivey says in the letter dated June 15.

“At this point the political fate of Representative Durham is best left in the capable hands of his voting constituents,” he concludes.

Durham faces a credible GOP primary challenger in Sam Whitson, a retired Army colonel,  who is competing to represent the predominantly Republican suburban Nashville district in the Tennessee House. The primary will be held on August 4.

The investigation of Durham was announced on January 28 by Speaker Harwell amid rumors and media reports he had sexually harassed female staffers and lobbyists at the State Capitol.

As Breitbart News reported previously, there were a number of questions about the legal authority under which the investigation was organized originally.

It is unclear what happens next.

Spivey is just one of three Republicans who serve on the Ad Hoc Committee. Committee Chairman McDaniel and State Rep. Andrew Farmer (R-Sevierville) are the two other Republicans. The fourth member, State Rep. Raumesh Akbari (D-Memphis), is a Democrat.

Spivey is most well known as the sponsor of the recent legislation that will phase out the Hall Income Tax on unearned income in Tennessee. Governor Bill Haslam signed the bill into law last month, thereby ensuring that Tennessee will soon have no income tax on either earned or unearned income.

Notably, Spivey, who is retiring from the Tennessee House, did not resign from the Ad Hoc Committee.

In theory, if his request to dissolve the committee were to be brought to a vote and lost on a 1-to-3 result, it would continue to function and the legal authority granted to the Attorney General to continue his expanding investigation of Durham would remain.

However, Spivey’s very public request to dissolve the Ad Hoc Committee serves to undermine the authority of the Attorney General’s investigation. Many question whether the Attorney General is doing the bidding of the Ad Hoc Committee or the Ad Hoc Committee is doing the bidding of the Attorney General.

If it is the latter case, it violates the law, at least as represented in the Attorney General’s advisory opinion.

Spivey’s entire letter to Hoc Committee Chairman McDaniel can be read here:

Billy Spivey

State Representative 92nd House District

House of Representatives

State of Tennessee

June 15, 2016

Dear Chairman McDaniel,

With the April 22 sine die adjournment of the 109th General Assembly effectively ending any opportunity for the proper procedural removal of Representative Durham, there seems to be no legitimate basis for continuing the operation of an Ad Hoc House Committee formed to “determine whether allegations concerning Representative Jeremy Durham justify expulsion”.

Furthermore, while the aforementioned allegations related to a very specific area of concern, recent media reports indicate that the investigation in question has gone well beyond the scope of those original allegations. The radically increased depth and breadth of this investigation is disconcerting, to say the least, and reeks of a political witch hunt being undertaken.

Numerous reports from various media outlets seem to credibly paint the ongoing investigation as a fishing expedition for usable dirt on political opponents, with a net cast far and wide in hopes of gathering as much opposition impugning information as possible. This aspect of the investigation has merited national attention from the likes of Breitbart, who recently produced a detailed article containing several disturbing revelations, including claims by individuals interviewed by investigators from the Attorney General’s office that the investigators “asked more questions about others than they did Jeremy Durham” and that they seemed to be “hunting down gossip” on “other legislators”.

These reports are deeply concerning.

Adding to these concerns is the fact that members of the Ad Hoc Committee have been left to learn of these and other important developments by way of The Tennessean and Breitbart.

With these things taken into consideration, it is difficult for me to see any truly good and productive purpose in continuing the operation of this Committee. Moreover, it’s become painfully easy to see this Committee’s likely use as cover for the sort of underhanded political maneuvers that, frankly, make me both ill and quite angry.

It is in this context that I respectfully request the Ad Hoc Committee in question be dissolved immediately.

Dissolving a practically powerless Ad Hoc Committee and thereby removing the basis for the Attorney General’s ongoing investigation seems to be the most reasonable and wise course of action left available to us at this time. At this point the political fate of Representative Durham is best left in the capable hands of his voting constituents.

Respectfully,

Billy Spivey

Tennessee State Representative, District 92


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