A 27-year veteran of the Tennessee Highway Patrol successfully won his appeal after being investigated and docked 20 days of pay, blamed for being the source for internal documents leaked to the Channel 4 I-Team.
An administrative law judge's ruling shows that now-retired trooper Eric Weingeroff was investigated by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation following a series of reports into illegal drugs found at the home of the former director of a state drug and alcohol enforcement agency.
It all started in 2011 when Weingeroff and two Dickson County deputies went to the home of former Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission Director Danielle Elks on a next-of-kin death notification to alert her of the death of her husband, Taz Digregorio.
Inside the home, the officers found what they reported to be a small amount of marijuana.
Given that part of the ABC's mission is marijuana eradication, ABC agents came to the Channel 4 I-Team with their concerns that the marijuana wasn't confiscated and traced back to its dealer.
One of those ABC agents told the Channel 4 I-Team it appeared it was all covered up.
Weingeroff was later investigated by the TBI and cleared of any mishandling of the case.
"He didn't do anything wrong. He reported what he found," said Weingeroff's attorney Mike Flanagan.
But after the Channel 4 I-Team aired our investigations into the incident, including showing internal investigative records of how it was handled, Weingeroff was once again investigated by the TBI.
"He was treated like a criminal. He was a suspect in a criminal case," Flanagan said.
According to a ruling by an administrative law judge, the deputy director of the TBI, Mark Gwyn, wanted to find, "how copies of TBI's documents got on Channel 4."
"I think, somebody was going to pay for leaking that report to the media," Flanagan said.
According to the ruling, that somebody was Weingeroff.
Despite denying he was our source, Weingeroff was ultimately suspended for 20 days for gross misconduct and betrayal of confidential records.
After his punishment, Weingeroff sued the state and won.
The judge found that the Tennessee Department of Safety, which oversees the THP, failed to meet its burden of proof and ordered the state to pay Weingeroff back his past wages.
"He didn't do anything wrong. He was the scapegoat," Flanagan said.
A spokeswoman for the THP said Col. Tracy Trott thought the 20-day suspension was warranted at the time and had no comment about Weingeroff's appeal.
A spokesman for Gwyn said the TBI's investigative records are confidential and they, "launched an investigation into an attempt to determine responsibility for the sake of accountability."
As a rule, the Channel 4 I-Team does not disclose the identity of our sources, but we can confirm that Weingeroff was not among our sources for that story.
It should also be noted that the drugs found in Elks' house are believed to have belonged to her husband.
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