NASHVILLE — Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett was driving a state vehicle when he was arrested and charged with driving under the influence last weekend in Tullahoma, his office stated Tuesday.
"As the Tennessee secretary of state, Secretary Hargett is assigned a state vehicle for which personal use is allowed. Secretary Hargett pays taxes on the use of this vehicle," Hargett spokeswoman Julia Bruck said in a statement. "Based on the outcome of legal proceedings, the department will take appropriate steps to comply with state policy."
Her comments came as new details emerged of last Saturday's early morning arrest after Hargett had earlier attended the Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival.
Citing Coffee County court records, Nashville television station WKRN reported Tuesday that the arrest occurred after an officer observed Hargett departing from Bar 315 in Tullahoma with the vehicle riding over several lane markings while it traveled down three streets.
The police affidavit states the officer stopped the vehicle, detected an odor of an intoxicant coming from Hargett and noticed his eyes were glossy. It states Hargett kept repeating "yes, sir" at inappropriate times when he had not been asked a question, WKRN reported.
Hargett, 53, allegedly performed poorly on several field sobriety tests, and a passenger inside the vehicle told the officer that he and Hargett had been drinking four hours earlier, prior to the stop, WKRN reported. Hargett consented to a blood sample. Results are pending.
A former House member, Hargett was first elected by fellow lawmakers as secretary of state in 2009.
Tullahoma police officials have declined to release the affidavit of complaint or Hargett's arrest report — public documents — referring a Chattanooga Times Free Press reporter who on Saturday had requested the documents on Tuesday to Coffee County District Attorney Craig Northcott.
Northcott's office has yet to respond to a Monday request for the documents. A staffer in Northcott's office said Tuesday that officials had received the request but did not elaborate on its status.
"I don't know about the details," Gov. Bill Lee, a Republican, told reporters Tuesday morning when asked about the arrest. "He's said he was regretful and remorseful. And it's unfortunate."
Lt. Gov. Randy McNally, the Republican Senate speaker, issued a statement Tuesday.
"Getting behind the wheel while intoxicated is a serious offense and one that demands punishment," the statement said. "My understanding is that this occurred in his off hours. Knowing Tre, I feel he will learn from this mistake and accept whatever punishment is handed down. I am not encouraging him to resign at this time."
House Minority Leader Karen Camper, D-Memphis, issued a statement Tuesday as well.
"Obviously, I urge everyone to drink responsibly and please do not drink and get behind the wheel of a car," she said. "I am distressed and concerned about the news that he was possibly driving a state vehicle. As a state official, the public expects us to be held to a higher standard and rightly so. Still, I believe in due process, and I think it's very premature at this point to even discuss his possible resignation."
A spokesman for House Speaker Cameron Sexton, R-Crossville, did not respond to a Times Free Press request for comment on the arrest. Nor did Senate Minority Leader Jeff Yarbro, D-Nashville.
DUI charges are nothing new on Tennessee's Capitol Hill.
For example, then-Rep. Curry Todd, R-Collierville, in 2009 and 2010 championed "guns-in-bars" legislation that allowed handgun-carry permit holders to bring their handguns into establishments selling alcohol. The bill was vetoed by then-Gov. Phil Bredesen, a Democrat. Todd later pushed a veto override effort, boasting he was going to shove Bredesen's veto "where the sun don't shine."
A former policeman, Todd was later arrested in 2011 by Nashville police on charges that included drunken driving and having a loaded .38-caliber handgun stuffed between the driver's seat and the center console. He failed a field sobriety test and refused to take a breathalyzer test. Todd later pleaded guilty in 2013 to both the drunken driving and gun charges.
Tennessee's DUI law carries penalties upon conviction of up to one year in jail with a mandate of serving at least 48 hours. It also carries a $2,500 fine.