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Source: Lovell grabbed breast of female staffer at legislative reception

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Shelby County Commissioners remained unsure about the process to replace Rep. Mark Lovell Wednesday, as WREG learned more details about the sexual harassment allegations against the former freshman lawmaker.

Lovell represented district 95, including Eads, Collierville and parts of Germantown, before he resigned Monday. He cited a need to focus on his family in a statement to constituents.

He also denied any sexual harassment allegations in that statement.

But a source told WREG Lovell grabbed the breast of a female staff member while attending a legislative reception in Nashville last week.

The source said the staff member did not work for Lovell.

A representative for the Tennessee Cable Telecommunications Association confirmed Lovell attended their reception on the night of February 7, but said the incident did not occur at that reception.

The state's official lobbying event records listed eight events that occurred on February 7.

The source told WREG the victim reported the incident to officials, according to a new workforce discrimination policy put in place in 2016.

But Lovell resigned before an investigation began.

State officials said that meant they lost jurisdiction over any potential case.

A representative from Gov. Bill Haslam's office confirmed Wednesday the governor was aware of the resignation and would begin "the process of filling the now vacant seat."

According to state law, the governor will have to call for a special election to fill the district 95 seat.

Until then, Shelby County Commissioners can appoint a replacement.

Commissioners were unsure if they'd be able to get someone in that seat before the 2017 legislative session ended.

"It certainly leaves a big gap for citizens that live in my district to not have representation," Commissioner Mark Billingsley said. "I think most good public service officials would say they're very disappointed with what we’re faced with. Quite frankly, if we choose to appoint someone, the legislative session may be over with by the time we get someone appointed."

Billingsley also criticized Lovell, who defeated a long-time incumbent to earn his spot in Nashville this year.

"For anyone to run for office and then discover after three weeks they don’t have time for the job, it’s pretty disrespectful for everyone involved," he said.

The Commission said it would vet and interview any potential appointee.