September 1, 2014

Update: review of governor’s speeding vehicle underway (audio)

Officials are tight-lipped about the investigation of a state trooper who was clocked speeding in the governor’s SUV, with the governor and lieutenant governor inside. The incident on April 26th came to light after the suspension of the DCI agent who spotted the speeder and called the Iowa State Patrol to report the SUV was going 90 miles an hour.

The Department of Public Safety has released audio recordings of Special Agent Larry Hedlund’s call to a dispatch center in Cedar Falls.

Audio: clips from DPS recordings (runs :41)

“I’ve got a black SUV doing about a hard 90 on (Highway) 20 westbound…he went by me,” Hedlund said. An Iowa State Trooper was called to try and “clock” the actual speed of the SUV while Hedlund tried to keep up. “I’m doing right at a little over 90 and I’m not catching up,” Hedlund told the dispatcher.

Eventually, a trooper clocked the SUV going 84 mph on Highway 20 near the intersection with Interstate 35. A dashboard camera from the state patrol car shows the trooper had to weave in and out of traffic — and pass a school bus — to catch up to the governor’s speeding vehicle, but once it was identified as the governor’s, the pursuit ended.

Hedlund, the DCI agent who first spotted the speeding SUV, did not realize it was the governor’s vehicle, as a search of the license plate did not show up in computerized records.

Hedlund called the dispatch center again after he heard from the trooper. “Did you get the word on who’s vehicle that was?” Hedlund asked. “No,” the dispatcher responded. “I guess my career doesn’t have enough problems the way it is,” Hedlund said, laughing. “It was the governor.” The dispatcher responded by saying “I’m sure they realize you guys are out there doing your job, right?” Hedlund then made a joke about “getting more troopers on the road.”

The attorney for Hedlund said his client complained to superiors that the trooper who was driving the governor had been given a free pass for going almost 20 miles an hour above the posted speed limit — and five days later Hedlund was placed on administrative leave. A spokesman for the Iowa Department of Public Safety will only say the agency “is reviewing the situation as a part of a confidential personnel investigation.”

The governor’s spokesperson confirmed Governor Branstad and Lieutenant Governor Reynolds were in the vehicle, “but were unaware this event had occurred.”