'Honorary Captain' program scandal scraps promotions for all officers

| 8/25/2005

The promotions of all Tennessee Highway Patrol officers have been scrapped by order of the governor, after The Tennesseannewspaper’s found possible corruption in the state’s “Honorary Captain” program.

On Tuesday, Aug. 23, Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen ordered all officers who were up for or had recently received promotions to be reinterviewed and retested before receiving their new ranks.

The move comes after the promotions of two sergeants – Sgt. Tansil Phillips and Sgt. Timothy Holloway – were put on hold, after The Tennessean discoveredthe men’s testimony was key in the dismissal of a DUI case against an “honorary captain.” The sergeants’ promotions were scheduled to become effective three days after the governor ordered the end of the honorary program.

However, at least one of the two men in question apparently hadn’t received the memo on his stalled promotion. When The Tennessean phoned Holloway at his Memphis office on Aug. 15, both Holloway and his assistant used the title of “Lieutenant” before his name when they answered the phone, the paper reported.

On Aug. 8, Bredesen told the patrol to stop issuing “honorary captain’s” badges and photo ID cards to supporters. That order came after The Tennessean discovered that the official-looking honorary badges – part of a program some believe was a secretive way for high-profile citizens to stay out of trouble with the law – had been given to politicians, campaign donors and celebrities for more than 30 years.

The Tennessean originally reported that 360 people had received the badges since 2002, 19 of whom are current or past staffers for the governor. Two badgeholders in the program – who both had no eligibility criteria, application process or background checks – were found to have criminal records.