California’s Top Traffic Cop in Fix over Daughters’ Tickets
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) _ You’re California’s top traffic cop and your adult daughters are racking up tickets for drunken driving, speeding, running stop signs and drag-racing. What do you do?
That’s what state officials and some aggrieved police officers are asking Maurice Hannigan, who besides being dad to lead-footed offspring is the commissioner of the California Highway Patrol.
At issue is whether Hannigan put his foot down - not on his daughters’ driving but on the officers who wrote their tickets.
Highway Patrol officers have complained that they were interrogated and intimidated by senior CHP officials after citing Hannigan’s daughters for traffic violations.
The allegations are the biggest blot in Hannigan’s otherwise thriving 29- year police career. He’s spent all but two years in the Highway Patrol, quickly moving up the ranks.
So far, internal reviews are being conducted by the state Business, Transportation and Housing Agency, which oversees the CHP, and by the Sacramento District Attorney’s Office. One patrolman also has requested an investigation by the state auditor general.
Hannigan declined an interview until the reviews are completed. However, when the allegations surfaced last month, he said he believed he was the target of a smear campaign.
″This is a deliberate attempt to defame my reputation,″ Hannigan told The Sacramento Bee.
He denied any interference with his daughters’ tickets, and said he has told officers to cite his children when they deserve it.
But some officers in the North Sacramento station claim that senior officials forced changes in an accident report and harassed officers who cited or arrested Hannigan’s eldest daughter, Maureen.
One officer who ticketed her went on stress disability leave. The captain who commanded the station has been reassigned.
Maureen Hannigan, 23, was involved in an auto accident in December 1989, was arrested in July 1990 on suspicion of drunken driving but not charged, and was ticketed in April for running a stop sign - the same one she was cited for running a year earlier.
Her sisters’ driving habits also have caught officers’ notice.
The Highway Patrol warned Kristine Hannigan, 19, for allegedly drag racing last August for the second time in a year. A third daughter, Colleen, 20, challenged a speeding ticket in June.
The California Association of Highway Patrolmen has come to the commissioner’s defense, saying a ″preliminary inquiry″ found no basis for the allegations against him.
″Commissioner Hannigan is, without a doubt, one of the best commissioners the CHP has ever had,″ said Andrew Legg, president of the labor group.
″The commissioner’s conduct is, and always has been, exemplary,″ Legg said. ″There may be some individual officers who do not share this view, but they are clearly in the minority.″
However, the San Francisco Chronicle recently reported that a consulting firm hired by the Highway Patrol found Hannigan unwilling to listen to members of the 6,300-officer force or to his division commanders who, in turn, had become frightened to speak out for fear that they would be punished.
After the initial results of the study came in, the consulting project was quietly abandoned last spring before it could be finished, the newspaper said.
Hannigan was appointed commissioner in February 1989 by then-Gov. George Deukmejian, a Republican and former state attorney general. There was no public opposition when the state Senate confirmed the appointment. Republican Gov. Pete Wilson rehired Hannigan in January.
A Wilson spokesman declined comment until the Business, Transportation and Housing Agency finishes its review. Officials refused to say what action could be taken against Hannigan if they find any wrongdoing on his part.