Skip to comments.TN: (DEM) Congressman Recommends Trooper with Long Criminal History
Posted on 12/16/2005 3:13:15 AM PST by mcg2000
The hiring scandal at the Tennessee Highway Patrol is now reaching all the way to the U.S. Congress. It has been uncovered that a trooper still working on the force was recommended by Congressman Lincoln Davis -- even though the trooper had a long criminal history.
Officials at the Tennessee Highway Patrol hired Martin Estel Brown as a trooper in 2004 even though their own investigator recommended that he not be hired.
In trooper Brown's personnel file, that investigator documented the following information about Brown's criminal history:
* In 1996 he was arrested for assault and theft -- charges that were eventually dropped.
* In 2001 he was arrested for public intoxication.
* His drivers license was suspended twice for failing to answer traffic charges.
* He tested positive for cocaine while in the Navy.
* Brown also got a previous drug charge expunged from his record.
But during the application process, Martin Brown had something very big in his favor -- a recommendation from Congressman Lincoln Davis who is related to Brown by marriage.
The Congressman urged the Department of Safety to give Martin Brown strong consideration and it seems to be the main reason he was hired. Colonel Lynn Pitts reportedly acknowledged the Congressman's letter. Despite Brown's criminal history, he is now a state trooper.
Republican Representative Beth Harwell blames Governor Phil Bredesen for perpetuating a political climate at the Highway Patrol.
"I questioned when the governor appoints as his commissioner the man who ran his campaign in Washington County. I question that when he accepts contributions from troopers and they get promotions over people who are more qualified. That's wrong," said Rep. Harwell.
Democrat Rob Briley defended the Governor, saying these problems didn't start on his watch.
"I don't think the issue just came up in the last 6 months or a year, these are pathologic problems that have been ongoing for years and years," said Briley.
As for Congressman Lincoln Davis, after reading press reports he's changed his mind about Brown's qualifications, saying "I absolutely would not recommend him..." And he added "I was surprised and disappointed in what I read."
Channel 4 contacted Congressman Davis's office on Thursday and he replied with an e-mail saying Martin Brown is not a blood relative, and that he is married to the daughter of the Congressman's brother.
The letter of recommendation from Congressman Davis and the Colonel's letter in response can no longer be found in Martin Brown's personnel file. They've been transferred to another department within the Bredesen administration, and Channel 4 still had not received copies by Thursday evening.
Channel 4 tried to contact Trooper Brown Thursday afternoon but were not able to reach him for a response.
'We had been busy with other things,' Goetz says about the Tennessee Highway Patrol investigation.
Gov. Phil Bredesen knew of the deep-seated problems of cronyism and politics in the Tennessee Highway Patrol some time ago but was focused on other issues, one of the governor's top lieutenants said in a radio interview yesterday.
Dave Goetz, state commissioner of finance and administration, appeared to lay blame for the problems in the patrol with former Safety Commissioner Fred Phillips, who was ousted last week.
Cronyism "had been accepted as part of the culture there, and we had been busy with other things," Goetz said in response to questions from talk show host Steve Gill on WWTN-FM 99.7. "And I'll just have to take the blame for that. But we had relied on the commissioner and the staff there to clean these things up, and frankly, there had been multiple conversations over a period of time saying, 'You need to straighten these things out,' and they weren't straightened out."
Goetz later backed off those statements in an interview with The Tennessean: "I think I probably misspoke a little bit there," during the quick-paced banter with Gill, he said.
Bredesen, who has spent much of the past 12 months dealing with the overhaul of the TennCare health insurance program, was not available for comment late yesterday, spokeswoman Lydia Lenker said.
The governor, who appointed Phillips as his safety commissioner in 2003, launched an effort last week to overhaul the THP, including sweeping out the upper management of the Safety Department. "It is not a pretty picture," the governor said a week ago yesterday after a review of the THP by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and some of his top staff from the Personnel Department.
But Goetz's statements on the morning radio show also jibe with Bredesen's comments in recent months, suggesting that the governor knew at least, in general about problems in the Safety Department as far back as August and pledged then to find a fix.
"We need to professionalize the department," Bredesen said in an August interview. "We need especially to treat young people in the department in a way that they think the way they get ahead is to do a good job as opposed to making friendships. And I'm headed in that direction."
That same month, the administration halted a round of THP promotions, fearing allegations of favoritism and political influence raised in The Tennessean.
Then, in November, the newspaper reported that two-thirds of THP promotions under Bredesen's administration went to officers who gave money to his campaign, or had family members or political patrons who did. And more than half in that group were promoted, although they were competing against officers with higher promotion scores.
Phillips and Pitts signed off on the agency's promotions, state records indicate.
Bredesen was quoted in a Nov. 15 story saying he would look into the allegations.
Later in the month, Bredesen ordered another look at the agency when reports showed that dozens of officers with criminal backgrounds were on the Highway Patrol.
Bredesen last week forced the resignation of Phillips and replaced him with a longtime ally, Transportation Commissioner Gerald Nicely, who will serve a 60-day stint with Safety.
In his interview with The Tennessean late yesterday, Goetz said he was not part of any conversation between Bredesen and Phillips, and that Bredesen gave Phillips the same marching orders the governor gave all his Cabinet members when he appointed them. He said the governor only learned of specific problems in the THP in recent months.
"My understanding was, the governor looked at Fred a year and a half ago, before we knew about all of the things that have come out in the last six months, and said, 'Look, this is your department to run, and I want you to straighten out any things that need straightening out,' " Goetz said. "Obviously that didn't occur. It's not that we knew that these problems that have come out in the last few months were going on and we didn't deal with them."
Phillips could not be reached for comment yesterday. There was no answer at a phone number listed for his home in Washington County, where Phillips is from and where he ran Bredesen's 2002 gubernatorial campaign.
Bredesen tapped Goetz to "straighten out" the Safety Department in late November, before Phillips resigned, Goetz said. That's when Goetz started researching private consulting firms with outside law enforcement experience to give a hard, outsider's look at how the THP runs.
The governor and his aides ultimately realized that "this isn't working" with Phillips and then recruited Nicely, according to Goetz.
Working with other top officials, Goetz chose New York-based Kroll Inc. as the outside consultant. That firm has played key roles in reforming the Los Angeles and Detroit police departments and helped implement big changes in the Pennsylvania State Police after a sex-harassment scandal.
"We were going to bring in this external help and see if Commissioner Phillips couldn't straighten it out," Goetz said.
Make your voice heard Gerald Nicely, interim commissioner, Tennessee Department of Safety Lt. Col. Larry W. Rucker, acting commander,
Tennessee Highway Patrol Mail: 1150 Foster Ave., Nashville, TN 37249-1000. Phone: 251-5175. E-mail: email@example.com.
Gov. Phil Bredesen Mail: Tennessee State Capitol, Nashville, TN 37243-0001. Phone: 741-2001. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
12.15.05 Bredesen Adviser Has Done Work with Firm Investigating Corruption at THP
12.14.05 Bredesen Hires Firm with Donation History to Study THP
12.11.05 Troopers with Donation Ties
To investigate the promotion per donation (to Bredesen's campaigns) against the THP .... Bredesen has hired an outside firm .... who's also donated $25,000+ to his campaign funds ...
Troopers making political contributions to the Governor? Tennessee must pay more than Georgia!
This sounds like the role model for New Orleans. Blanco, Bredesen.....both the same party I believe???
The NO Dems should have all moved to Memphis. They'd have felt right at home. Sounds like the FBI needs to roll out RICO in TN.
*Culture of 'RAT Corruption in TN ping*
This ought to be a clarion call to Van Hilleary to get his butt out of the Senate race and either run against Pharoah Phil in a rematch or go reclaim his old House seat from Lincoln Davis.
Welcome to Tennesee...home of Rent-A-Cop and Buy-A-Governor ! This is really a sad state of affairs for a really great state.
* In 1996 he was arrested for assault and theft -- charges that were eventually dropped.
Charges dropped-nothing here.
* * In 2001 he was arrested for public intoxication..
No mention of conviction/charges dropped, etc.-nothing here.
* * His drivers license was suspended twice for failing to answer traffic charges. .
Not good for an officer to ignore the courts. I would think the second time would be grounds for dismissal.
* * He tested positive for cocaine while in the Navy..
If that didn't keep him from being hired in the first place, it's not a problem now.
* * Brown also got a previous drug charge expunged from his record. .
There was so "nothing" to the charge it was (almost) expunged. Real story: how do papers get information about expunged charges.
God-forbid your ilk is placed into positions of interviewing candidates that require a morale compass.
Just an innocent and good-natured person who by happenstance, encounters these situations. It's so frustrating dealing with apologists' ...
Expunged? Time can clear that from the record.
Naval Test? Understand the story you're reading. The article outlines improper hiring and promotional practices.
Assualt & Theft? Assualt charges not brought by female and no communication on the other end of theft.
Public Intox? He was a victim ...
I see the paper failed to mention that Davis is a DEMORAT.
Davis has gotten ten grand from HILL PAC. Nice to have low friends in high places.
"This ought to be a clarion call to Van Hilleary to get his butt out of the Senate race and either run against Pharoah Phil in a rematch or go reclaim his old House seat from Lincoln Davis."
But But but ... I thought the Dems were clean and honest
That's what Nancy Pelosi keeps telling us
/ sarcasm >
One of the things mentioned briefly about this going back years. If my memory serves me correctly when I was much younger I had heard of Al Gores dad being involved in the THP and I think Al himself has been mentioned when he was VP. I could be wrong but I think I am correct.
Van Hilleary would be an excellent governor but I am nit sure what he can do because the corruption runs so deep he will be opposed at every turn.
Who is planning on running against Lincoln Davis next year?
"This sounds like the role model for New Orleans. Blanco, Bredesen.....both the same party I believe???"
Nashville's not anywhere near as corrupt as NO and has a lot less crime. Now Memphis.....
You're right of course. He's accussed, therefore he's guilty. Sig heil!
A Hitler reference, eh? Well, we certainly know where your mind tends to gravitate.
It's called a pattern of behavior and/or associations ... which are grounds for denial. Interview a few people here or there and become acquintated with the extended responsibilities within a workplace.