published Monday, November 25th, 2013

Tennessee trooper resigns after being disciplined

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Records show a Tennessee Highway Patrol trooper has retired after being disciplined for not allowing the state's only black female appellate judge into the Supreme Court building.

The Tennessean reports the discipline memo from Department of Safety and Homeland Security Commissioner Bill Gibbons says Trooper Brent Gobbell was reprimanded and docked one day's pay due to the incident. The paperwork said he turned away Court of Criminal Appeals Judge Camille McMullen, who was trying to drop off paperwork for another judge on June 14.

"Upon Judge McMullen presenting you with her official judicial identification card, you refused to take it into your possession and verify its authenticity. Instead, you told Judge McMullen, 'Those are easy to come by.' You were implying that her identification card could possibly be fraudulent without knowing what kind of identification she was presenting," Gibbons wrote.

Gobbell allowed McMullen to give the paperwork to a clerk, who passed it along.

The trooper later apologized by email, but records show he was disciplined because his actions displayed "an utter disregard to proper procedures regarding accepting proper procedures and allowing appropriate personnel access to the Tennessee Supreme Court building."

Among the rules and regulations that Gobbell's actions violated, according to the memo, was a provision that says state employees "shall not express any prejudice concerning race, religion, politics, national origin, life style or similar personal characteristics."

Gobbell was suspended for 15 days without pay in October 2009 and ordered to undergo diversity training after he forwarded an email that declared "white pride" to other state employees.

He later apologized for the email, saying it was sent by accident.

McMullen, who became the first black woman appointed to the Court of Criminal Appeals in 2008, had filed a complaint against Gobbell for refusing to admit her into the building.

A department spokeswoman says Gobbell, who was hired in 1983, has retired since the incident took place.

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