Another state trooper was pulled over last month for speeding while driving the governor’s SUV. A spokesperson for the Iowa Department of Public Safety, Sergeant Scott Bright, says it happened on Highway 3 as Governor Branstad was on his way to an event in Hampton. “One of the troopers was stopped for speeding with the governor on August 27,” Bright said. “The deputy that stopped the trooper gave him a written enforcement. That trooper called his supervisors, we started an investigation on that and disciplinary action was given to that trooper.”
The trooper is identified as Darren Argabright. Sergeant Bright declined to describe the trooper’s discipline. “Since it’s an internal investigation, I can’t share anything about the disciplinary action taken,” Bright said. Chief Franklin County Deputy Linn Larson gave Trooper Argabright a written warning, not a citation. The written warning does not indicate how fast Argabright was driving in the 55 mile-an-hour zone.
Sergeant Bright said Larson was within his rights to let Argabright go without a citation. “Everybody in law enforcement, we all have discretion in what we do, whether we give a warning or a written citation,” Bright said. “This deputy decided to give him a written warning based on his criteria and how he works…it was at that officer’s discretion to give him a written warning.”
The August 27 stop of the governor’s SUV is similar to an April 26 incident in Hamilton County. In that case, Trooper Steve Lawrence was clocked driving 19 miles-an-hour over the speed limit, with Governor Branstad and Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds aboard the SUV. Another state trooper who tracked the SUV determined it was the governor’s vehicle and ended the pursuit.
Sergeant Bright said the investigation into the latest speeding incident has been closed. “We’re not going to tolerate this, the governor’s not going to tolerate it and this trooper…as soon as it happened, he called his supervisors…disciplinary action has been taken and the case has been closed,” Bright said.
The first speeding incident, on April 26, involved former DCI agent Larry Hedlund. He reported the speeding SUV and was later put on paid leave within days of complaining that the driver wasn’t ticketed. Hedlund was fired on July 17. He has sued the state for wrongful termination. On July 18, Governor Branstad held a news conference to reject Hedlund’s claims that his firing was related to the speeding incident.
Branstad also pledged that troopers driving his vehicles in the future would obey the speed limit. “I don’t want to see another incident like this occur,” Branstad said. His SUV was pulled over for speeding just six weeks later. An internal review of the April incident ended with a $181 speeding ticket for the state trooper.
Branstad spokesman Tim Albrecht issued this statement in regard to August 27 incident: “The governor has made clear that his security detail is to obey all traffic laws, and he does not tolerate any exceptions. Upon learning of the incident, the Department of Public Safety launched an immediate investigation and they took disciplinary action against the trooper involved in the incident.”
Two Democrats who are running for governor issued statements about the latest incident involving Branstad’s vehicle caught speeding. Senator Jack Hatch of Des Moines said: “There he goes again. Did he not learn anything from the public outcry over the summer? No one is above the law in this state. His refusal to release reports of possible previous incidents seems to mean that this behavior is a pattern. I call on him to release a full report on the times that his security detail has been pulled over.”
Representative Tyler Olson’s statement: “Governor Branstad is in a big hurry when it’s time to look out for his political career and he continues to think he is above the law, but when it comes to leading Iowa forward and keeping his promise of creating 200,000 new jobs, he’s in no hurry at all.”