Cumberland County Democrats file complaint with attorney general over House speaker’s residency

Tennessee House Speaker Cameron Sexton discussed his priorities for the legislative session at a Jan. 24 meeting in Nashville. A group led by the Cumberland County Democratic Party has filed a complaint with the Tennessee attorney general asking for a civil investigation into whether Sexton wrongly filed reimbursement expenses with the state. / Lookout Photo by Alexander Willis

More than a dozen residents of House Speaker Cameron Sexton's district filed a complaint with the Tennessee attorney general, asking for a civil investigation into whether he wrongly filed reimbursement expenses with the state.

The complaint alleges by filing for the larger per diem allowed to lawmakers who live outside the state capital — even though he owns a home in Nashville — Sexton wrongly claimed expenses 150 times, which could result in a fine of between $375,000 and $1.5 million.

"We believe a civil investigation into potential violations of the False Claims Act is warranted in order to protect the interests of Tennessee taxpayers," the complaint says.

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The Cumberland County Democratic Party led the complaint. The county party's chairwoman, Anne Quillen, ran against Sexton in 2018 and 2022.

"This is not a vindictive effort," Quillen said. "This matter needs to be investigated and settled."

The complaint comes after a report by progressive news outlet Popular Information revealed Sexton downsized from a house to a condo in his hometown of Crossville while purchasing a house in Nashville under a hidden trust in 2021.

Sexton previously confirmed he owned the Nashville home and moved his family to the city, where his daughter attends school. He added he returns to Crossville on weekends, breaks and during the summer.

Sexton defended the move by pointing to several other House speakers who've owned multiple homes while holding the top job in the House.

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Campaign for Accountability filed a different criminal complaint with Davidson County District Attorney Glenn Funk and Henry Leventis, the U.S. attorney for Middle Tennessee, arguing that because Sexton moved his family to Nashville, he's a Nashville resident.

Sexton's residency is critical to whether he can file for the full per diem reimbursement allowed under state law. Lawmakers living outside Nashville can collect $313 per day working at the state Capitol to cover lodging and meals, while those within 50 miles can collect $79.

The House speaker's Nashville home is less than 7 miles from the state Capitol. But, nothing stops a lawmaker from using reimbursement expenses to cover mortgage payments versus other lodgings.

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For 2021 and 2022, Sexton claimed around $78,000 in per diem reimbursement expenses.

The Lookout reached out to a spokesperson for Sexton, who didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.