TBI gets new director after interim accused of using state dollars for affair

Gov. Bill Haslam appointed a new director of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Monday after the agency confirmed that its interim leader is under investigation over accusations that he misused state funds.

As Haslam announced his pick of Knoxville Police Chief David Rausch, the bureau said Monday that an outside review is already underway into allegations against Acting Director Jason Locke, who was a finalist for the permanent post.

“The TBI has been made aware of, and takes seriously, the accusations involving Acting Director Jason Locke,” bureau spokesman Josh DeVine said in a statement.

The governor’s office produced emails that Haslam received Friday from Locke’s wife, Kim Locke, about her husband, alleging he used taxpayer money to carry on an affair with another state official from November 2016 through July 2017.

Haslam asked the Department of Safety and Comptroller’s Office to follow up, said his spokeswoman, Jennifer Donnals.

The Nashville district attorney general’s office is communicating about the investigation with the state comptroller and the state division of the Department of Safety and Homeland Security, said district attorney spokesman Steve Hayslip.

Jeff Cherry, an attorney representing Locke, said, “We are continuing to work through the issues,” but declined to comment further.

WTVF-TV in Nashville first reported the allegations and the investigation.

Locke, a 21-year veteran of the bureau, was one of three finalists for the permanent director job. The third contender was Tennessee Board of Parole member Tim Gobble.

Rausch, who becomes director on June 25, has served as Knoxville’s police chief since 2011 and oversees more than 500 employees, including about 400 sworn officers. He joined the department in 1993 and rose through the ranks.

A U.S. Army veteran, Rausch served in the Military Police Corps from 1986 to 1990.

Former TBI Director Mark Gwyn retired last month after three decades with the agency.

“David (Rausch) brings a wealth of experience to the TBI and the proven leadership to continue the great progress the agency has made in making Tennessee safer,” Haslam said in a news release. “As police chief in Knoxville, he took on both urban and rural public safety issues and collaborated with local, state and federal partners to help address some of the region’s most pressing crimes, such as gang activity and human trafficking.”