NASHVILLE — Governor Phil Bredesen on Monday issued a letter of reprimand to Deputy Governor Dave Cooley following the State Attorney General’s inquiry into circumstances surrounding the speeding ticket that was issued to Mr. Cooley.
The text of the Governor’s letter to Mr. Cooley follows:
“As you know, General Summers has now completed his investigation of the events surrounding your speeding ticket, and in consultation with District Attorneys General Johnson and Whitesell, has found nothing worthy of prosecution. I am obviously pleased that you have been cleared of any legal wrongdoing, both on your behalf and on behalf of my Administration.
“I remain very upset, however, over the undisputed fact that once it became known to you that the ticket had been dismissed in a private meeting with the judge, you accepted the favor and did nothing to reverse the transaction.
“My ethics policy, which you helped draft, specifically calls out behavior which affects ‘adversely the confidence of the public in the integrity of the government.’ There is no question in my mind that a senior official’s acceptance of a courtesy ticket dismissal runs afoul of that policy. The consequences of that have included an erosion of public confidence in you, and the disruption and loss of focus on important issues.
“Please consider this letter a formal reprimand for your actions. If this situation were ever to be repeated, you can expect me to take drastic action. On a personal (albeit somewhat public) note, your wife needs you, your children need you, and your governor needs you. Please slow down.”
State Attorney General Paul G. Summers issued this statement regarding Judge Dvid Loughry's dismissal of the Cooley ticket:
"Today I responded to District Attorney Bill Whitesell's request for
review regarding the anonymous information his office received about Judge David Loughry's dismissal of a traffic ticket issued to Deputy Governor Dave Cooley on February 29, 2004.
"Based upon information gathered by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, and after thorough review, there will not be any prosecution or criminal charges. I have discussed the information with District Attorney Whitesell and Davidson County District Attorney Torry Johnson and they agree in this conclusion."
This letter was sent by Attorney General Summers to District Attorney
September 20, 2004
Honorable William C. Whitesell, Jr.
District Attorney General
320 West Main Street
Murfreesboro, TN 37130
RE: Review of matter pursuant to T.C.A. 8-6-112
Dear General Whitesell:
I have completed my investigation of the speeding ticket issued to
Mr. Dave Cooley on February 29, 2004, and dismissed by the Rutherford County General Sessions Court on March 23, 2004. My focus was to determine if a judicial officer, Judge David Loughry, violated criminal laws by ordering the citation's dismissal. At my request, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation investigated the circumstances and the conduct of any person involved in the issuance and dismissal of the citation up until the present time. The TBI's investigation was thorough and objective.
Prior to your leaving for Chattanooga to try a case, I gave you my overview. At that time, I had a preliminary case file; now, the TBI agents have finished a few additional tasks. No new probative information has been developed since our call. I understand you agree with my analysis as to any events transpiring in your district.
I have shared the file with General Torry Johnson of Davidson County
and briefed him after I received the last bit of information from the TBI. I am authorized to say he also agrees with my analysis of events that transpired in his jurisdiction.
I conclude that no crimes were committed by Judge Loughry when he
dismissed the ticket presented to him by the Tennessee Highway Patrol Lieutenant on March 23. Insufficient evidence exists to support any theory that the judge committed other crimes relating to Mr. Cooley's traffic ticket.
As to other individuals, questions have been raised in the media that
allude to whether Mr. Cooley or others may have committed criminal offenses. Speculation as to theories of possible crimes range from illegal cancellation of traffic citations, bribery, and extortion. Insufficient evidence exists in this investigation to warrant a prosecution of Mr. Cooley or anyone else. Since you or General Johnson would be involved in any prosecution if the proof existed, I understand both of you agree with my conclusions.
Many of the people involved herein are subordinates of Governor
Bredesen or work directly for him. At his request, I have briefed him and have made suggestions and recommendations when asked of me. I am satisfied he is aware of pertinent facts of the ticket disposition and all collateral matters generated, including departmental conduct and culture. I have recommended to the governor a change in the Department of Safety's regulations to help avoid a situation like this in the future. The department should publish a regulation requiring a trooper or supervisor to appear in open court at regular court session before he or she could move to dismiss or reduce a traffic charge.
Sometimes people, including public officials, do things they should
not have done. The actions of public officials are scrutinized more carefully and are sometimes judged more harshly than the conduct of other citizens. But there is a big difference -- a quantum leap -- between conduct that merely creates the appearance of impropriety, on the one hand, and criminal activity warranting prosecution, on the other. Based on the evidence generated during the TBI's thorough investigation of this matter, my staff and I have concluded there is insufficient evidence to justify a criminal prosecution of any of the individuals involved.
I have completed the tasks you requested of me in my capacity as
Attorney General. I trust my report concludes these matters so far as the criminal justice system is concerned.