Iowa Chief's Letter Has Passages from 1999 Speech

By Erin Jordan, Reporter


By Larry Burkum

IOWA CITY, Iowa - The public safety commissioner who resigned Tuesday amid controversy lifted large passages of his resignation letters to Iowa and Florida from a 1999 speech by a retiring Navy captain.

Brian London, who served as head of the Iowa Department of Public Safety for 11 months, said he used the passages from Capt. John Allen Williams’s retirement speech because the Naval officer articulated how London felt upon leaving his last two jobs.

“I saw that and liked what he said,” London told The Gazette Thursday. “He said heartfelt stuff. Some of it is his, some of it is mine.”

London said he did not know the resignation letter was a public document. He intended it just for his DPS colleagues.

Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad accepted London’s resignation Tuesday night and named Sen. Larry Noble as London's replacement.

Several distinctive passages from London’s resignation letter come from Williams’s speech, including the phrase “when you take your hand out of a bucket of water, the hole does not long remain” and a reference to a quote by George Carlin.

Other paragraphs are lifted nearly verbatim.

“I close with one final thought. We weave the fabric of our lives slowly and draw from many strands – most importantly of family, but also of friends, experiences, accomplishments, disappointments, hopes for the future, and shared and personal memory,” Williams said on Sept. 25, 1999.

London’s letter to the Iowa Department of Public Safety says the same thing, substituting only the word “memories” at the end.

Nearly three years ago, London wrote the exact same passage in his resignation letter to the Florida Department of Financial Services, where he was deputy chief financial officer for two years. Leaving that agency, he also quoted George Carlin and used the “bucket of water” metaphor.

London uses Williams's words to thank his wife and children.

"My most important comments on this occasion are for the most important people in my life, my family. To my wonderful wife and best friend, Marie-Line, the source of my greatest happiness: our children and our continuing life together. I will never be able to adequately express how much her love, support, sacrifice and wise counsel have meant to me."

Only London's wife's name and the addition of the word "sacrifice" are different from the Williams' speech.

Knowing that London was inspired by the career Naval officer's speech helps make sense of one passage, where he says "this transition occurs with a measure of surprise at the rapid passing of the years, but without regrets or second thoughts." While London has spent his career connected to law enforcement, he was in Iowa for less than a year.
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