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UPDATE: Sexton responds, constituents call for resignation
On Thursday, Popular Information reported that Tennessee House Speaker Cameron Sexton (R) secretly purchased a $600,000 home in Nashville. Sexton and his family live in the Nashville home year-round, raising questions about whether Sexton can legally represent Crossville, a community that is two hours from the state capital. Sexton also has claimed tens of thousands of dollars in per diem reimbursements from taxpayers that are intended for representatives that live 50 miles or more from Nashville.
The same day, Sexton was confronted about his Tennessee home in a gaggle with reporters at the state Capitol building. Sexton was asked: "It's been reported that you're living in Davidson County or this immediate area, yet you've gotten… per diem [payments] almost every week for the past year based on Crossville travel. How do you justify that?"
Here is how Sexton responded:
There is a per diem for everybody for lodging and food… I have a home… My home is in Crossville. I live in Crossville. We're here five months out of the year. Then we go back on the weekends and so forth. I live in Crossville. My home is in Crossville. And those per diems are reflected amongst everybody. So, thank you.
Virtually nothing Sexton said is true.
Sexton claims there is "a per diem for everybody for lodging and food." This is not true. The per diem available to everyone, approximately $79, only covers food and incidentals. The per diem that includes lodging, approximately $313, is only available to representatives who live more than 50 miles from the state Capitol. It is pegged to the price of a hotel room in Nashville. Sexton owns a home six miles from the state Capitol but still takes the larger reimbursement.
Sexton claims he lives "in Crossville." But his residence for voting purposes is determined by Tennessee statute. Under the law, the "place where a married person's spouse and family have their habitation is presumed to be the person's place of residence." In this case, Sexton admits that his family lives year-round in Nashville, where his youngest child is enrolled in a private school. Sexton could overcome this presumption if he lives "at a place other than where the person's family resides." But Sexton does not do that. He lives with his family in Nashville.
Earlier, Sexton cited a different provision of Tennessee residency law to justify his continuing representation of Nashville. That provision states that a "person does not lose residence if, with the definite intention of returning, the person leaves home and goes to another country, state or place within this state for temporary purposes, even if of one or more years duration." But buying a home in Nashville does not suggest that his move was temporary or that he has any "definite intention of returning" to Crossville. This helps explain why Sexton went to considerable lengths to keep his purchase of a luxury home in Nashville secret.
Sexton also claims "we're here five months out of the year." It's unclear if he's talking about his family or the legislature. But the legislative session is only four months annually. The issue is not that Sexton lives in Nashville those four months. The issue is that he lives in Nashville the other eight months as well. Visiting his condo in Crossville on weekends does not mean Sexton is a Crossville resident.
Under the Tennessee Constitution, if Sexton does not live in Crossville, he can not legally represent Crossville.
Sexton failed to pay property taxes
Sexton has not paid 2022 property taxes on his Nashville home. The bill came due in February and is now accruing interest.
Popular Information previously reported that Sexton also had not paid his property taxes on his Crossville condo.
Residents of Sexton's district call on Sexton to resign
Sexton represents Tennessee's District 25, which is composed of portions of Cumberland County and portions of Putnam County. In response to Popular Information's reporting, the Democratic Party of Cumberland County and the Democratic Party of Putnam County issued a joint press release calling on Sexton to resign.
Based on Tennessee’s Constitutional Requirement that representatives be duly registered voters in the districts where they live, Legum’s investigative findings showing Sexton resides in Nashville… the members of the Democratic Parties of Cumberland and Putnam Counties demand Cameron Sexton resign as TND25 Representative.
Representative Justin Jones (D), one of the Tennessee House members expelled for expressing solidarity with protesters advocating for gun control, cited Popular Information's reporting on national television. "Sexton doesn’t even live in his district," Jones said on MSNBC.Representative Gloria Johnson (D), another House member Sexton sought to expel, said that Popular Information had exposed Sexton's "corruption."