By GARY TANNER
Associated Press Writer
NASHVILLE, Tenn.- The commander of the Tennessee Highway Patrol was forced to resign Tuesday amid allegations of political favoritism and departmental corruption, including an attempt by the officer to buy a fishing boat that had been seized by troopers.
Col. Lynn Pitts, a 31-year veteran of the patrol, violated state law by trying to buy the boat, which had been put up for sale as surplus state property, Safety Commissioner Fred Phillip said.
It is illegal for anyone "directly or indirectly involved in the confiscation," of property to bid on it, Phillips said in a statement.
Pitts, commander for nearly three years, went on a state Web site last week under the name "pitts" and bought a 17-foot aluminum fishing boat with a 40-horsepower engine for $1,700 in a transaction that was later halted by the General Services Department, which handled the auction.
The transaction was first reported Tuesday by The Tennessean, which has run a series of stories about problems inside the Highway Patrol. Current and former troopers have complained of political pressure, campaign donations and favors for the powerful.
Pitts was not in his office Tuesday morning could not immediately be located for comment.
After questions were raised by The Tennessean, Gov. Phil Bredesen ordered the state to do background checks on all 855 troopers last week and found that 48 had criminal charges, ranging from larceny and assault to driver's license suspensions.