published Friday, August 23rd, 2013

Beth Harwell files Bebb complaint with attorney licensing board

Beth Harwell's statement

As a result of the recommendation of the bipartisan House panel appointed to review the investigation of District Attorney General Steve Bebb (10th Judicial District), Speaker Harwell has submitted a complaint to the Board of Professional Responsibility.

Speaker Harwell appointed the House panel to review the TBI files, the Attorney General’s report, and other accounts the panel found were relevant to these matters. The bipartisan panel, consisting of three Democrats and three Republicans, having reviewed the information as directed, has recommended that certain allegations warrant continued review.

Attorneys licensed to practice law in the State of Tennessee are bound to follow specific and comprehensive ethical rules governing their conduct. These rules are to ensure ethical conduct, maintain the public’s trust, and the integrity of our judicial system. The Board of Professional Responsibility is charged, by statute, with the duty to investigate all allegations of unethical conduct by attorneys. The Board was created and funded to be investigators and staff attorneys who are experts in the field of ethical behavior by attorneys. The next appropriate step in this process has been to report the allegations to the Board of Professional Responsibility for a thorough, prompt investigation and appropriate action.

After reviewing the findings and actions of the Board of Professional Responsibility, the 108th General Assembly will then take such actions as they feel are warranted and necessary to restore the public trust in the 10th Judicial District Attorney General’s Office.

Several entities have reviewed aspects of this situation. The Speaker recognizes their scope has been confined legally to areas within their purview. She wishes to thank all parties who have worked so hard to move this difficult matter to this position: the State Comptroller, State Attorney General, and the bipartisan House panel, and Chairman Tony Shipley.

Tennessee House Speaker Beth Harwell has joined other state lawmakers asking the state's Board of Professional Responsibility to investigate allegations of ethical misconduct by 10th Judicial District Attorney General Steve Bebb.

In an emailed statement, Harwell spokeswoman Kara Owen said this:

"Attorneys licensed to practice law in the State of Tennessee are bound to follow specific and comprehensive ethical rules governing their conduct. These rules are to ensure ethical conduct, maintain the public’s trust, and the integrity of our judicial system. The Board of Professional Responsibility is charged, by statute, with the duty to investigate all allegations of unethical conduct by attorneys. The Board was created and funded to be investigators and staff attorneys who are experts in the field of ethical behavior by attorneys. The next appropriate step in this process has been to report the allegations to the Board of Professional Responsibility for a thorough, prompt investigation and appropriate action.

"After reviewing the findings and actions of the Board of Professional Responsibility, the 108th General Assembly will then take such actions as they feel are warranted and necessary to restore the public trust in the 10th Judicial District Attorney General’s Office."

Owens' statement offered no specific allegations of misconduct by Bebb.

The Times Free Press reported last week that at least two members of the House and Senate also have filed complaints with the state board after reviewing TBI investigative reports and other information related to alleged ethical, legal and financial misbehavior in Bebb's 10th Judicial District.

The legislative oversight follows a four-month probe by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and the state comptroller's office ordered by state Attorney General Robert E. Cooper Jr. into allegations raised in a six-day Times Free Press series in August 2012. The newspaper's series aired complaints of financial and ethical misbehavior by Bebb and people he supervised in the district attorney's office and the 10th Judicial District Drug Task Force.

See complete coverage in Saturday's Times Free Press.

about Judy Walton...

Judy Walton has worked 25 years at the Chattanooga Times and the Times Free Press as an editor and reporter focusing on government coverage and investigations. At various times she has been an assistant metro editor, region reporter and editor, county government reporter, government-beat team leader, features editor and page designer. Originally from California, Walton was brought up in a military family and attended a dozen schools across the country. She earned a journalism degree ...

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