Senate panel takes up TBI files in Bebb investigation

photo Steve Bebb

NASHVILLE - Senate Judiciary Committee members this afternoon voted to go into executive session as they review Tennessee Bureau of Investigation files and consider whether there is sufficient evidence to go forward with a process to remove 10th Judicial District Attorney Steve Bebb from office.

Judiciary Chairman Brian Kelsey, R-Germantown, said in response to a question posed by Sen. Doug Overbey, R-Maryville, that the Senate resolution authorizing the Bebb investigation stated "we are to keep the information contained in the TBI file on this topic confidential."

"So," Kelsey said, "I certainly would be very much in favor of a motion to move into executive session."

Overbey made the motion, seconded by Sen. Todd Gardenhire, R-Chattanooga, and it passed on a voice vote. Committee member Mike Bell, R-Riceville, has recused himself from proceedings.

In August, a special House investigative committee said there was sufficient evidence to warrant moving ahead with a recommendation to the full House in January.

Lawmakers are looking at evidence developed from a Chattanooga Times Free Press series and a subsequent investigation by the TBI and the state Comptroller's Office ordered by State Attorney General Robert Cooper.

In March, Cooper released a report saying Bebb exhibited poor judgment and was a bad recordkeeper, but Cooper did not find any prosecutable violations.

The six-day Times Free Press series published in August 2012 detailed wide-ranging allegations of misconduct by Bebb and people he supervised. They included allegations that Bebb accepted taxpayer reimbursement for driving a state-owned car as well as rampant financial misconduct in the 10th District Drug Task Force, whose board chairman is Bebb.

Other articles detailed how former drug task force chief Mike Hall spent thousands of dollars of public money on dining, travel and motels for himself and a female agent that could not be documented as legitimate task force expenses.

Some allegations involved civil rights violations in arrests and court cases, from racial profiling in drug seizure cases to prosecutorial misconduct. In one case, the prosecutor allowed a detective to pretend to be an attorney in hopes of getting a jail inmate to implicate himself in a killing.