A former Tennessee attorney general, criminal appeals court judge and district attorney general was appointed Monday to investigate allegations of impropriety in the office of the 10th Judicial District Attorney.
10th Judicial District Attorney General Steve Bebb requested the appointment of a pro-tem district attorney on Monday, “to investigate any allegations of impropriety in this office, either by myself or any employee.”
District Attorney Conference Executive Director Wally Kirby said this morning that former state Attorney General Paul Summers was appointed to conduct the investigation.
“Paul Summers is beyond reproach,” Kirby said. “He will do whatever he sees fit, regardless of who he makes mad or happy.”
He said Summers will have the full authority of a district attorney in matters regarding impropriety.
The Tennessee Attorney General’s Office and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation also announced on Monday they are cooperating in an investigation relative to issues raised in the 10th Judicial District.
According to a statement released by the attorney general’s office, the Office of the State Comptroller will assist in the investigation.
“There will be no public announcements regarding the progress of this investigation. At its conclusion, the Attorney General’s Office will make a determination as to whether any further legal proceedings are warranted,” according to the statement.
Bebb’s office is alleged to have fumbled important cases through ineptness or misconduct, misused taxpayer money and played favorites during criminal prosecutions, according to a series of newspaper articles.
The district attorney said this morning he came to the decision Monday afternoon because he wanted someone fair and impartial to investigate the allegations. He said the conference would select a current or former district attorney, but added, “I don’t know who they’ll select.”
Kirby said this morning he was unaware of the state attorney general’s decision until after he made the appointment. Bebb’s office will continue uninterrupted by Summers’ investigation.
“The TBI will conduct the investigation and share its findings with [Attorney] General Summers and hope they will be in contact with him on a regular basis,” Kirby said.
Bebb said this morning he made the decision to ask for the investigation by the conference because it became apparent the situation was political.
“Monday afternoon I realized everyone wanting to investigate [is] dependent on the Legislature for funding,” Bebb said.
State Sen. Mike Bell, 9th District, and 22nd State Rep. Eric Watson said Saturday the Tennessee General Assembly could begin impeachment proceedings against Bebb in January.
“I’ve heard from constituents in all four counties,” said Bell, whose Senate district overlaps the 10th Judicial District in Bradley, McMinn and Polk counties.
Watson said, “Rumors abound in the 10th Judicial District and other areas of Tennessee as to the validity of the accusations of misconduct against District Attorney Steve Bebb.”
Bebb said this morning he believes most people see the political nature of the situation. He said he has received 1,100 messages of support from people who live inside the 10th Judicial District. Three of the messages were from Chattanooga.
In a written statement, House Speaker Beth Harwell said Monday, “Any time we hear of alleged misuse of taxpayer dollars and other alleged unethical behavior, the allegations must be taken very seriously so as to protect the integrity of elected offices.
“I am aware of the issues raised in the stories by the ‘[Chattanooga] Times Free Press,’ and I have the utmost confidence that the proper authorities will conduct investigations and reach a solution. I believe in letting the system work, and if at some point that includes action by the Tennessee General Assembly, that will be explored at the proper time.”