Nashville’s top prosecutor now finds himself under investigation, according to reports.
Tennessee Attorney General Jonathan Skrmetti has launched a criminal probe into Nashville District Attorney Glenn Funk’s office in the wake of revelations of listening devices being installed around the building in downtown Nashville.
NewsChannel5, which first reported on the discovery of the devices, says the AG has sent Funk a letter seeking to learn whether anyone on the district attorney’s team violated the state’s wiretapping statute.
Funk has been instructed to preserve all evidence “regarding the purchase, installation, maintenance, and operation of recording devices,” as well as the audio recordings themselves and any communications about those recordings, the TV station reports.
Elizabeth Lane, Press Secretary for the Office of the Tennessee Attorney General, told The Tennessee Star on Tuesday the office is not commenting on the matter.
Funk’s team has not disputed the reports. DA officials insist the devices — capable of picking up conversations of employees and visitors without prior warning — are a necessary part of office security. The District Attorney’s office has said “there is no reasonable expectation of privacy for conversations in public places.”
“We have never conducted any unauthorized audio or video recording of any area where a person has a legitimate expectation of privacy,” Funk wrote in a letter to the Attorney General’s office obtained by NewsChannel5. “We know what the law allows and what the law prohibits.”
Legal experts say the listening devices could violate state and federal wiretapping laws.
Jay Stanley, a senior policy analyst for the American Civil Liberties Union in Washington D.C., told The Tennessee Star that courts have been sympathetic to the argument of “expectation of privacy,” even in public places. If two individuals are having a quiet conversation in a public building and do not consent to being recorded, that would constitute a reasonable expectation of privacy, he said.
“And every American should want to live in a country where you don’t have to worry about microphones recording you constantly,” the ACLU official said.
Surreptitious recording in government buildings appears to be a growing concern nationally.
Last week, The Star News Network released documents showing audio recording devices installed at City Hall in Green Bay, WI. As in the Nashville case, citizens, employees, even City Council members were unaware the recording equipment had been installed — in the hallways outside the City Council chamber, the mayor’s office and the city clerk’s office.
Green Bay city officials also claim the bugs were installed in the name of public safety. Facing a lawsuit, city officials are doubling down on their commitment to the recording devices, although they say signs notifying the public to the bugs will be posted at city hall.
“In connection with my February 13 letter and today’s letter, my client, the Wisconsin State Senate (“Senate”), is preparing to file one or more state- and/or federal-court lawsuits (“prospective Actions” or “Actions”) that will name your client and possibly others as Defendants,” Ryan Walsh attorney for the Wisconsin State Senate wrote in a letter to Green Bay Mayor Eric Genrich. The letter warn the city to “preserve and retain all documents, materials, and other tangible evidence, including any electronically stored information (“ESI”), possibly relevant to an impending suit.”
East Providence, RI, also took public heat last summer — including criticism from the ACLU – after it installed similar recording devices in its city clerk’s office. In that case, the city did at least put up signs notifying the public of the recording equipment.
Funk, a highly partisan Democrat, is no stranger to disregarding the law. He has vowed not to enforce the state’s laws on abortion, mainly that he will not prosecute doctors who perform them in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe v. Wade.
As the Associated Press reported, Funk “has made a habit of resisting GOP-passed laws.” Like other progressive DAs around the country, Funk has sought to pick and choose laws he doesn’t like, often for political purposes, his critics argue.
Steve Hayslip, spokesman for the District Attorney’s office, emailed The Tennessee Star a copy of the letter Funk sent to Skrmetti. He said prosecutors in the Nashville DA’s office are on the frontlines of the criminal justice system.
“They sometimes have to put very dangerous people behind bars. Knowing who is outside our doors in a public building where there is no expectation of privacy is not only prudent, but necessary,” Hayslip said. He added that, the AG’s office has not responded to Funk’s invitation to tour the District Attorney’s offices.”
The ACLU’s Stanley said installing audio monitoring devices takes civil liberties down a slippery slope.
“The argument that, ‘You’re in public so you’re fair game,’ could lead to a lot of bad outcomes,” he said.
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M.D. Kittle is the National Political Editor for The Star News Network.
Photo “Jonathan Skrmetti” by Tennessee Attorney General. Photo “Glenn Funk” by Office of the District Attorney General/Nashville-Davidson County. Background Photo “Tennessee Capitol” by FaceMePLS. CC BY 2.0.
5 Thoughts to “Report: Tennessee AG Launches Criminal Probe into Nashville DA’s Office on Wiretapping Concerns”
I would not trust listening devices this guy could be using them to blackmail government employees.
Funk sounds exactly like the planted George Soros DA from Florida that refused to follow Florida laws so Governor Ron Desantis called him out and fired him.
Good, Lawyers talk to other lawyers in the halls. Attorneys speak to their clients in the halls. Deals/agreements/settlements are arranged between parties in the halls.
Funk needs to go…..spying on the public…..
Rules don’t apply to democrats. The state AG is simply looking into the matter. Perhaps Mr. Funk should focus on protecting the public and not just the people that work for him.