A Superior Court judge has made public a confidential report that a top Wilson Administration official used as the basis for reprimanding the head of the California Highway Highway Patrol for interceding in traffic citations issued to the commissioner's daughter.
The report resulted from an investigation ordered by Carl D. Covitz, a member of Gov. Pete Wilson's Cabinet, into allegations of possible misconduct by CHP Commissioner Maurice Hannigan.
Hannigan has denied any improper behavior and asserted that, rather than receiving favorable treatment by him, his grown children were the victims of a vendetta by CHP officers in the department's North Sacramento field office.
The report prepared for Covitz said there was no evidence of such a vendetta. It did, however, go into some detail involving instances when CHP officers stopped Hannigan's daughter Maureen for traffic violations and described how the violations were handled at higher levels. Also mentioned were citations issued to another of Hannigan's daughters.
The 14-page report said Hannigan berated a CHP captain "about certain aspects" of the arrest of Maureen Hannigan in 1990 in Sacramento on suspicion of drunk driving. It said Hannigan ordered the captain transferred but noted that Hannigan denied it was punitive.
The report quoted Hannigan as saying that he was angered for "personal not professional" reasons. Sources familiar with the report agreed that Hannigan was not complaining about the arrest but rather the brusque manner in which the captain informed Hannigan's wife in a telephone call.
The drunk driving charge was dropped by a district attorney for lack of evidence.
The report also said Hannigan sent word down the chain of command that if one officer was, as alleged, harassing Maureen Hannigan, he should "knock it off."
Also included in the report to Covitz was a review by a deputy commissioner of a 1989 collision in which Maureen Hannigan first was found to be chiefly at fault. Later, her share of the blame was downgraded by CHP investigators to being only a contributor, a procedure officials have said sometimes occurs when there is a dispute over fault.
Based on the four-month investigation by a Covitz deputy, Covitz last November gave Hannigan an unusual public reprimand for creating a perception that reflected poorly on the CHP. Hannigan, Covitz said, had engaged in "inappropriate behavior and a lack of professional judgment" for allowing the "appearance of favoritism."
Covitz refused to make the report of the investigation public, insisting that it was a confidential state personnel matter. The Times sued for release of the report under the state Public Records Act. Portions of the report were deleted by Judge Ronald Robie to protect the privacy of witnesses.
Hannigan, a 28-year career CHP officer, has agreed that the "perception may have been created that I was interfering with the CHP contacts in question" but he emphatically denied any interference. According to associates, the commissioner believed that a detailed response he prepared that told his side of the story had been ignored by investigators.
Shortly before the court ordered the report released, Covitz warned Hannigan in a letter that if he made public his written response, it "would be damaging to your ability to provide effective leadership to the CHP in the future."
Asked if this meant that Hannigan's job might be in jeopardy, Covitz said through a spokesman: "The letter speaks for itself."
Hannigan has not been available for comment. A department spokesman said he is ill and will be on extended medical leave.