Deputy governor still involved in THP promotions, newspaper says

| 2/27/2006

Despite being told by his superior to stay out of the Tennessee Highway Patrol’s business, Deputy Gov. Dave Cooley continued to exert his influence within the organization for some time, according to the latest investigation by a Nashville newspaper.

According to The Tennessean, Cooley – who was ordered by Gov. Phil Bredesen to stop his involvement with promotions within the patrol in late 2004 – repeatedly recommended troopers for promotions and hirings up to a year after his scolding.

The proof, the paper said, can be found in public records between Cooley and various individuals within THP, including Interim Safety Commissioner Gerald Nicely. According to The Tennessean, Cooley asked for and was given Nicely’s personal e-mail address, which would not be obtainable under federal public-information laws.

However, Bredesen told The Tennessean that he did not see Cooley’s actions as a violation of his earlier warnings to remain hands-off in THP’s hiring practices.

“Dave is the deputy governor,” Bredesen said. “If he wanted to talk to the incoming person, who he’s had a long relationship with, about any thoughts he had about where he ought to look or something, that does not feel to me like interfering in the Highway Patrol.”

The ongoing investigation into Cooley is just the latest controversy to emerge from Tennessee’s state and local police forces, most of which stem from an ongoing investigation by The Tennessean. The newspaper has uncovered more than a dozen incidents, with allegations ranging from sexual misconduct to high-level cronyism throughout the state’s police force and various levels of government.