UPDATE: Darrell Lucus
Journalist Judd Legum reveals more potential trouble for Sexton. Seems Sexton hasn’t paid property taxes on the Nashville house—and only paid 2022 property taxes on the Crossville condo after Legum turned on the hot lights. The 2021 property taxes remain unpaid.
Speaker of the Tennessee House of Representatives, Cameron Sexton, led the charge to expel three Democrats from the state House for participating in a protest calling for gun reform. The GOP supermajority voted to expel Justin Jones of Nashville and Justin Pearson of Memphis. The third and sole white representative up for vote, Gloria Johnson of Knoxville, survived by just one vote.
But it turns out that Sexton may have other problems. He nominally represents a swath of exurban and rural territory between Knoxville and Nashville, but Judd Legum of Popular Information has compiled mounting evidence that he actually lives year-round in Nashville—contrary to the state constitution’s requirement that state legislators are residents of the districts they represent. His son is enrolled in a school outside Nashville, and Sexton rarely sets foot in his nominal hometown. Moreover, he only spent a little over a month in Nashville last year on official business when the legislature wasn’t in session.
The evidence that Sexton doesn’t really live in the district he represents grew exponentially on Thursday, when Legum revealed that Sexton used some, shall we say, novel means to buy a house in Nashville. This is probably the strongest evidence yet that Sexton does not actually live in his district—and thus is not qualified to serve in the legislature.
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On Monday, Legum revealed that Sexton’s son attends a private Christian school just outside Nashville—quite a hike from Sexton’s nominal home in Crossville. Moreover, Sexton is rarely at the Crossville condo he claims as his residence, according to one of his Crossville neighbors. He’s only there on weekends and the odd weekday when school isn’t in session—with a conspicuous law enforcement detail.
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Apparently, there have been questions about Sexton’s residence for some time, which he was able to brush off until now. On Tuesday, Sexton told Phil Williams of Nashville CBS affiliate WTVF that he can claim residency in Crossville even though he is “employed in the service” of the Volunteer State and the nature of that employment keeps him elsewhere. But in the same breath, he claimed that since he spends so much time in Nashville, he might as well keep his family there.
Legum also perused the 2022 House Ledger Sheet, and found that Sexton spent a grand total of 42 days in Nashville on official business apart from the normal four-month legislative session. That’s not a red flag in and of itself. But consider that he’s rarely seen in his nominal Crossville home.
In September 2021, Sexton created an anonymous trust, the Beccani Trust, to buy a 2,600-square-foot, four-bed, three-and-a-half-bath house in West Nashville. The closing price for this “spacious luxury residence”? $589,900. Sexton’s name also seems to be kept out of the mortgage documents. The trustee of the Beccani Trust, Utah-based financial planner Bret Bryce, signed most of the documents. But Lacey Sexton signed the deed for the house as the “affiant”—and Legum discovered her signature is identical to the one she used to sign her husband’s nominating petition when he filed for a seventh term in the state house in 2022.
Moreover, the Beccani Trust financed the purchase through One Bank of Tennessee, a community bank based in Cookeville, where Sexton is a board member and works in the business development department. It turns out that Becciani Trust closed on the Nashville house on the same day that he closed on his Crossville condo—and the condo was also financed through One Bank.
How significant is this? Tennessee residency law states that you don’t lose residence if you leave “for temporary purposes”—provided that you have the “definite intention of returning.” And yet, Legum notes that purchasing a nearly $600,000 house in Nashville is hardly consistent with leaving Crossville “for temporary purposes” or having the “definite intention of returning” to Crossville. Moreover, that same law presumes that if you’re married, the place where your spouse and family live is your residence—unless you can prove you live in a different home than your spouse.
As if this wasn’t already swampy, Legum also discovered that Sexton is stiffing taxpayers for commuting to Nashville when substantial evidence suggests he doesn’t really commute there. Members of the Tennessee General Assembly who live more than 50 miles from Nashville are entitled to a $313 per diem, pegged to the cost of a typical hotel room in Nashville. This is available when a lawmaker travels to Nashville on official business when the legislature isn’t in session, a privilege that Sexton has used frequently.
Sexton filed forms certifying that he has a round trip commute of 236 miles—and on that basis, has charged taxpayers a whopping $92,071 in per diem expenses.
Never mind that the “spacious luxury residence” in Nashville is only six miles from the State Capitol.
When Tennessee election law expert John Spragens saw this, he concluded that Sexton has a lot of explaining to do. Spragens told Popular Information that if Sexton really doesn’t live in Nashville, “he should explain why he sold his house in Crossville, bought a $600,000 house in Nashville through a trust, and apparently lives [in Nashville] year-round.”
Unless he can provide such an explanation, Sexton must resign. And if he’s still inclined to dig in his heels, perhaps a resident of the district he nominally represents ought to make him provide such an explanation under oath. While the House can theoretically strip him of his seat, that’s not likely given the Republican supermajority in the chamber. So it looks like taking Sexton to court is the only way to hold him to account. It’s probably the only way to drain this swamp.
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