MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - An elected Tennessee state representative resigned his position just a month and a half after starting it. Now, his resignation brings a big price tag for taxpayers.
Tennessee State Representative Mark Lovell won District 95's seat in the November 2016 election, but now he's stepping down amid allegations that he groped a woman at a legislative reception in Nashville.
By stepping down, Lovell made it so the allegations could not be investigated by the state legislature.
"We need to know what happened," Rep. Mike Stewart said. "We need to protect the identity of the victim. But still can have a complete investigation."
House Speaker Beth Harwell said she takes sexual assault allegations very seriously. She could not say if an investigation had been launched into the alleged groping incident, but she did say that because of Lovell's resignation, she no longer has jurisdiction to continue or start an investigation.
Now a replacement will need to be chosen to fill the vacated seat.
"I'm just extremely disappointed that we are faced with this," Shelby County Commissioner Mark Billingsley said.
Shelby County Commissioners are in a bind because of the resignation, but it may also leave Collierville, Germantown, and east Shelby County in one as well.
"I would be concerned as citizens that I don't have representation," Commission Chairman Melvin Burgess said.
For the short term, commissioners can appoint someone to fill Lovell's seat. But, the process requires broadcasting the vacancy and taking applications.
"We are talking a month and a half at the short end," Commissioner Heidi Shafer said.
"Quite frankly, if we choose to appoint someone this legislative session may be over with before we get someone appointed," Billingsley said.
Wednesday, county attorney Kathryn Pascover told commissioners a special election must be held because more than a year remains on the term.
The Shelby County Election Commission said the cost for a special election is at least $120,000. Those funds can be reimbursed by the state.
Governor Bill Haslam must issue a writ ordering a special election within 20 days of the resignation.
Lovell was the newest member of the Tennessee House of Representatives. He beat Curry Todd in a hotly contested Republican Primary race that included Todd getting arrested for trashing Lovell's campaign signs.
WSMV reports Lovell never completed the sexual harassment video training session offered to state representatives. The video training was supposed to be completed by January 31, but Lovell's training certificate was never received.
Lovell told WMC Action News 5 that he was resigning because of the time requirements of the job that would keep him away from his business and his family. He called it a difficult decision and apologized to the public for resigning.
Below you can read Lovell's official resignation letter:
Lovell addressed the sexual harassment allegations by saying, "I stand by my statement that no improprieties happened and the allegations are completely false."
Lovell's campaign website states that he and his wife, Linda, have been married for 29 years. They have three children together.
Lovell represents District 95 which includes eastern Shelby County, Germantown, and Collierville.