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Democrat Calls For Stripping Jeremy Durham Of $300-A-Month Pension

State Rep. Jeremy Durham would qualify for a state pension in November.
Chas Sisk
WPLN (File photo)
State Rep. Jeremy Durham would qualify for a state pension in November.

A Democratic lawmaker is calling for action to deny state Rep. Jeremy Durham a state pension, noting he would receive more than $300 a month for life if he remains in office until November.

State Rep. Mike Stewart, D-Nashville, says lawmakers should hold a special session to formally expel Durham following a report that the Franklin Republican sexually harassed 22 women who worked in and around the state Capitol.

Durham has suspended his re-election campaign and is expected to give up his seat after the election in November. But if he does so, Durham would meet the four-year vesting requirement for a legislative pension, putting him line to get $86 a month for each year he served in the legislature, plus inflation adjustments.

"Regardless of what the voters decide … he will receive and be entitled to a lifetime pension unless we take action and convene a special session, as many have called for," says Stewart.

House Speaker Beth Harwell and other top Republicans have said they could throw Durham out of office, but because the legislature has adjourned for the year, it would be costly and serve little purpose.

Harwell responds to Stewart's call for a special session by noting it would cost about $25,000 a day to bring back lawmakers, and two-thirds of the legislature would have to agree to return. She adds that the committee that oversaw the investigation into complaints against Durham did not recommend a special session.

"More importantly, I agree with the committee's concern that the process could re-victimize these women," she says.

Republicans say that if they did expel Durham this year, they would have no way to keep him from taking his seat next year if he wins re-election. So, they conclude, it's better to let voters decide Durham's ultimate fate.

But even if Durham does lose, Stewart says giving him a state pension is unfair to taxpayers and the alleged victims of harassment.

He says lawmakers would be able to gather as early as next week to keep Durham from collecting.

Update, 6:15 p.m.: This post has been changed to correct the amount of Durham's pension. Because he was elected before July 1, 2014, Durham would receive $86.06 per month for each year of service, or $344.24 per month.

Copyright 2016 WPLN News

Chas joined WPLN in 2015 after eight years with The Tennessean, including more than five years as the newspaper's statehouse reporter.Chas has also covered communities, politics and business in Massachusetts and Washington, D.C. Chas grew up in South Carolina and attended Columbia University in New York, where he studied economics and journalism. Outside of work, he's a dedicated distance runner, having completed a dozen marathons