Watchdog group questions house speaker’s per diem

Published 3:32 pm Monday, May 1, 2023

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The Campaign for Accountability wants the U.S. attorney in the Middle District of Tennessee to investigate whether Tennessee House Speaker Cameron Sexton violated any laws by accepting per diem lodging expenses during the legislative session while living in Nashville.

The Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit watchdog group, citing reporting from Judd Legum of Popular Information, said Sexton has been living full-time in Nashville while representing Crossville and receiving per diem lodging expenses for those legislators who live more than 50 miles from the Capitol.

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The group is asking District Attorney General Glenn Funk to investigate whether Sexton “violated any state or federal criminal laws, including felony theft, honest services fraud, and tax fraud.”

Sexton told reporters recently he lives in Crossville but is in Nashville five months of the year during the legislative session.

The report says Sexton attempted to hide the purchase of his Nashville home by buying it under the name “Beccani Trust,” though it was bought through one of Crossville’s branches of One Bank Tennessee, where Sexton is a member of the board and works.

The nonprofit group says, since August 2020, Sexton “appears to have deliberately and wrongly applied for, self-approved, and improperly received taxpayer-funded payments totaling approximately $79,954.”

The report also says Sexton reported the lodging per diem as nontaxable, which it believes is a federal tax law violation because all payments from an employer must be reported as taxable gross income unless a specific exemption applies.