Haslam on questions about TBI director nominees: Nobody’s perfect

Gov. Bill Haslam says he will personally interview all three nominees for director of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation with the understanding issues have been raised about all the men and that no one is perfect, reports the Times Free Press.

The three, chosen by a special nominating commission earlier this month, are Acting TBI Director Jason Locke; former Bradley County sheriff Tim Gobble, who once was a special agent with the U.S. Secret Service and currently serves on the state Parole Board; and Knoxville Police Chief David Rausch.

“I think that’s why we do our due diligence,” Haslam said last week. “I mean, obviously, if I’m being interviewed I’ve got issues, right? None of us has a perfect background. Our job in the interview process is to ask about those things and then other things, as well, to see if there’s an issue and find out what the full story is.”

… “Hopefully, we’re working on our way to do the background checks,” Haslam said. “Again, my hope is somewhere in the next three weeks. It won’t be [this coming week] but either the week after that or the following week. We’ll interview them, and then I think make a pretty quick decision.”

The governor said he knows issues about each candidate have been raised.

For example, Gobble, who was elected sheriff in 2006 and served a single term, was sued in U.S. District Court while in office by his former finance director, Cheryl Rich.

She alleged Gobble violated her First Amendment rights after she spoke out against “fraud, waste and abuse” in the office. In court documents, Rich charged that included Gobble’s hiring of his wife for what Rich called a “vaguely-described” $20,000 position soon after he took office.… The suit was later settled out of court.

… Nashville television station WTVF, meanwhile, has reported that when acting TBI Director Locke was the agency’s deputy director, the TBI hired his son, a recent college graduate with no law enforcement experience, as a special agent, a highly-sought post.

Then-TBI Director Mark Gwyn defended the hiring, telling WTVF he hired his deputy director’s son because he grew up watching his father “go out and work cases. He understood what the values at TBI and what that TBI badge meant.”

… The Tennessean reported in 2016 that… Rausch and a detective made “professional courtesy” calls in advance to then-University of Tennessee head football coach Butch Jones about a rape investigation involving two players.

Rausch told the newspaper that was common practice when police investigated alleged crimes involving an athlete and no information of any kind was divulged to the players.

The Knoxville News Sentinel later reported that after a review, Rausch dropped the practice, saying “it is clear that no investigations were compromised or improper information provided.”

“But,” the chief added, “in the interest of transparency and to alleviate any appearance of conflict of interest, we have changed the previous practice, to ensure that investigators focus without hindrance on finding the facts and bringing justice to victims of crime.”

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