By Barry Graham
Reprinted with permission courtesy of the Bradley News Weekly
12/7/05 – When many people hate you, it’s hard to sneak around town without reporters finding out. Especially when your car has a license plate stating your name and your position as a State Senator. Especially when you park the car outside your office.
The editor of the Weekly (who is the author of this story) was excited when he heard on Monday that Jeff Miller was in town. As has already been reported in this newspaper, sightings of Miller are said to be rare – in Nashville, he has been nicknamed "Senator No-Show" for his absence from lawmaking sessions, and in Cleveland he has repeatedly failed to appear in court to perform his duties as Bradley County Delinquent Tax Attorney (a position to which he was appointed by his father, County Trustee Jute Miller).
Miller and his wife are in the process of divorce, a situation that came about when she found out that Miller was having an affair with one of his staff in Nashville, Jessa Fahey. It was common knowledge among wonks that the divorce trial was set to start this week… And then it wasn’t.
So, sources suggested, it looked like Miller was in town to sign the divorce papers. No one we spoke to was surprised by this – Miller’s marital indiscretions are so at odds with his public stance as a family values conservative that many people have been avidly waiting for it all to be made public at the trial. There had been speculation that Miller wouldn’t let it go that far.
When we heard he was in town, and that he had his girlfriend with him, we decided to go and ask him. The editor went for a stroll up Inman Street, from our office to Miller’s law office. The car was there, with its license plate proclaiming "JEFF" and the word "Senate" in smaller letters. The editor laughed. Then he walked back to his office, made a couple phone calls to try to figure out what was going on, and, then, with an assistant in tow with her camera, he walked back to Miller’s office.
The assistant took a picture of Miller’s vehicle. Then, seeing that the sign outside the office offered free consultations, the editor suggested that they go inside and have one. Miller didn’t want to be consulted.
The door to his office was open. He was sitting there at his desk, wearing earphones and looking at his computer. He turned and looked at his two visitors as they walked through the front door, and then he turned back to what he was doing.
"Can I help you?" his receptionist asked. "Yes," the editor said. "We’re from the Bradley News Weekly. We’d like to ask Senator Miller some questions, if he’s got a few minutes…" "I’ll ask him," she said. She went into Miller’s office, talked with him in a low voice, listened to his equally quiet response, and then came back to the front counter. "He has some important email he has to answer," she said. "Can he call you later today?"
"Sure," the editor said. "Here’s my card." "Do you want to leave a message for him?" "Yes, please. Let me tell you what I need to ask him…" "Okay." The receptionist began to write on the back of the card she had been given.
"I’d like to know if he’s in town to sign the divorce papers, and, if so, does he have his girlfriend with him?" Despite the earphones, Miller seemed to hear that. The editor’s assistant saw him react. Then she began taking pictures of him. The editor waited while the receptionist wrote down his question. Then he said, "And I’d like to know if it’s true that he’s thinking about resigning from the Senate."
She wrote that down too. "And I’d like to know if it’s true that he’s negotiating with John McKoon at the US Attorney’s office over whether he’s going to plead guilty to a misdemeanor charge regarding the $1000 he didn’t declare, or whether he’s going to take it to trial."
Miller was listening. But he didn’t look around and he didn’t speak. "And that’s about it," the editor said. "Okay, I’ll tell him," the receptionist said. "Thanks a lot.I’Bye," the editor said. Both editor and assistant smiled at Miller as they left. He didn’t smile back.
While waiting for Miller to call him, the editor decided to call Jessa Fahey. He did, but the conversation didn’t last long. He explained who he was, and then said, "I hear you’re in town with Senator Miller while he’s signing his divorce papers. Would you care to comment on that?" She didn’t answer. "Also, you were reportedly engaged to a soldier, David Willford, who was in Iraq when your affair with Senator Miller began. Is that true?"
"I can’t understand you," she said, referring to the editor’s strong Scottish accent. "And I’m on my cell phone, and I’m at work." "Are you in Nashville or Cleveland?" the editor asked. She hung up.
The editor asked Susan Shelton, the publisher of the Weekly, to call Fahey a few minutes later, expecting her to be more easily understood. Fahey didn’t answer her cell phone, so Shelton left her a message, asking about David Willford and saying she had some other questions. Fahey didn’t return her call.
Miller hadn’t called back either, so the Weekly decided to stake out his office. We did, and his vehicle never left the parking lot. Thinking he might take another vehicle, we staked out the office of his wife’s attorney, since that was presumably where the papers would be signed. He never appeared.
We called Miller’s cell phone twice, repeating the questions and asking him to call us if he wished to tell his side of the story. He never called. As we went to press, Miller was still married, and no new date had been set for the signing of divorce papers or the start of a trial.