Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam doesn’t think Safety Commissioner Bill Gibbons’ occasional use of state troopers as personal drivers is that big a deal if looked at “in context.”
And that context is, if the police are on the road they’re on the beat, said Haslam.
“If they’re driving him back and forth from Nashville, those are state troopers who are still on I-40, and they’re still on the job, so-to-speak,” Haslam said. He added that the ferry-the-commissioner-home trips “probably” only happen “about once a month.”
Haslam told TNReport he regards Gibbons as an “an incredibly responsible person,” that he’s a sound manager with both fiscal resources and manpower within his department. The governor said he has “full confidence” in Gibbons, a former Shelby County prosecutor.
Gibbons was also a 2010 GOP primary candidate for governor early. Until he dropped out of the primary race in March 2010, Gibbons was a staunch critic of Haslam, in particular of the governor-to-be’s refusal to release more personal financial information. Haslam later secured Gibbons’ endorsement for governor and subsequently announced he’d selected Gibbons to lead the Department of Safety and Homeland Security after he won the general election and was preparing to assume office.
Gibbons’ use of state cops as chauffeurs was brought to light in a Nashville News Channel 5 investigation that aired July 14. The piece showed Gibbons being driven by a state trooper in his state-issued SUV — followed by another trooper in a second SUV — from Nashville to Exit 108 on I-40, where Gibbons took over driving, leaving the two state troopers to head back to Nashville in the second vehicle. According to Newschannel5’s Phil Williams, at times the SUVs topped 80 mph on the interstate.
Asked to comment on the story last week by NewsChannel5, Haslam said, “If that’s what he needs to do to get his job done, I trust Commissioner Gibbons.”
In a July 16 Memphis Commercial Appeal story Gibbons, who lives in Memphis, explained that his use of state law enforcement workers as personal drivers was appropriate because it enabled him to get extra work done.
A Commercial Appeal editorial later suggested that Gibbons think about moving to Nashville, hiring a personal driver or including bus travel in his travel expenses, if he “thinks the commute” is “eating into his work time.”