A Tennessee trooper was suspended after he reportedly shared details of a gubernatorial candidate’s schedule with his opponent’s team – violating a nondisclosure agreement.
Trooper Anthony Bull was assigned to the Executive Protection Unit for both Bill Lee and Karl Dean – the Republican and Democratic nominees, respectively – in September, The Tennessean reported.
On the morning of Sept. 7, Bull was working with Lee’s advance security team in Hawkins County and had a conversation with his campaign’s RV driver, according to Tennessee Highway Patrol memos obtained by the newspaper. As they spoke, Bull “divulged locations that Nominee Karl Dean would be attending,” the documents said.
Specifically, Bull discussed a campaign stop described as a “Muslim event,” The Tennessean reported.
The RV driver later relayed that information to Lee’s staff, and a campaign staffer “jokingly” asked an unnamed Tennessee Highway Patrol officer who was traveling with them if he could have Bull “take a photo for us,” according to a memo from that lieutenant.
However, a report from the department’s investigation said it was Lee who “jokingly” asked for the photo.
Bull later told his supervisor the lieutenant told him “he had heard a statement from the Bill Lee campaign stating that they wished they could get a picture of the other party inside a mosque.”
Bull admitted he had unintentionally violated the nondisclosure agreement – which pledged he would not share information or photographs from his work with the campaign’s security detail – when he told the RV driver he “would be out of my element due to the itinerary including Morristown, Newport and a Muslim event in Knoxville,” according to The Tennessean.
On a call with the lieutenant and his supervisor, Bull said “he had let his guard down and was being too chatty” with the RV driver.
“It’s just wrong for a political candidate to ask state law enforcement to take photos at our event,” Dean told the newspaper in a statement. “If the Lee campaign wanted a photo, all they had to do was ask me or look at my campaign’s social media, not ask a state trooper to violate their rules and obligations.”
A spokesperson for Dean’s campaign said he did not visit a mosque but had a “community event” at a restaurant owned by a member of Knoxville’s Muslim community, according to the newspaper.
“Bill has no recollection of the conversation being described in the report,” Laine Arnold, a spokeswoman for Lee’s campaign, told The Tennessean. “He has great respect for the [Tennessee Highway Patrol] members involved, but this sounds like a miscommunication.”
Department of Safety & Homeland Security Commissioner David W. Purkey confirmed Bull was removed from the security detail and an internal review was ordered after he was made aware of the incident.
Purkey said Bull was disciplined – which included a suspension – after the review found he “violated confidentiality agreements signed earlier by all troopers assigned to the protective details.” Purkey said he’s also apologized to both campaigns.
Fox News has ranked the race to replace Gov. Bill Haslam as likely Republican.