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VOL. 40 | NO. 44 | Friday, October 28, 2016

Tennessee statehouse refuses to release sex harassment data

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NASHVILLE (AP) — Legislative leaders have said that sexual misconduct accusations levied against ex-lawmaker Jeremy Durham are not demonstrative of the state Capitol culture, but officials have refused to give data about sexual harassment in state government.

The General Assembly was the only one of the state's 45 agencies and departments that did not provide The Tennessean with any data, the newspaper reported (http://tnne.ws/2f52DQK).

The newspaper found that at least 460 sexual harassment complaints have been lodged against state employees or contractors since 2010, representing more than one complaint filed every week for more than six years. About 40,000 people work in state government.

The Tennessee Department of Human Resources acknowledges that all complaints are public record, but director of legislative administration Connie Ridley has refused to provide any information about complaints.

Ridley has cited legislative policy when not providing raw data about previous complaints or acknowledging the existence of any investigations.

As part of a new policy adopted in July, if an employee or lawmaker sexually harasses someone, a public record of their punishment will be included in their personnel file. Personnel files for lawmakers and legislative employees are public records. But there is no notice of when that investigation is completed or when any findings are made public.

Since the new policy was enacted, Ridley has either provided the newspaper with no information or ignored requests for findings of sexual harassment by specific lawmakers. Other requests have been rejected for being too broad.

The newspaper began the analysis as part of an ongoing investigation related to Durham, who was expelled from the Legislature in September following lurid allegations of improper sexual contact with at least 22 women during his four years in office.

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