Tennessee Department of Correction officials gave a gun to an employee who failed a vision test and, because of that, was a safety risk.
This happened so the TDOC could comply with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act, state Comptrollers say in a report released Tuesday.
The report didn’t name the TDOC employee, didn’t say precisely where this person worked and didn’t say whether the worker was a man or a woman.
Comptrollers could find no documents to support why TDOC officials made an exception for someone who didn’t meet the physical demands of the job. The move creates a bad precedent that “could pose a significant risk to correctional officers,” the report said.
The employee worked security at an unnamed facility and attended the Tennessee Correction Academy in Tullahoma. A doctor there dismissed the worker because of 20/400-vision in one eye, the report says.
“A few months later, TDOC rehired the same individual who then completed training at the academy, with the exception of firearms training. The individual subsequently received firearms qualification from another TDOC facility,” the report said.
“The individual was assigned to housing unit security and allowed to work armed posts. In April 2016, as a result of our inquiries, TDOC’s central office informed the facility that the individual would no longer be allowed to work armed posts.”
In his response to the audit, TDOC Commissioner Tony Parker said “the department appropriately granted a reasonable accommodation to the employee in question as required under the Americans with Disabilities Act.”
Parker also said “the employee completed all required training and qualified with a firearm achieving a very high score.”
In an email, TDOC spokeswoman Neysa Taylor said documents backing this up are now in the employee’s file.
“This is the only employee for which an exemption has been made,” Taylor said.
The report called out the Tennessee Corrections Academy for a variety of problems. According to the audit, the academy is Tennessee’s primary training and staff development center for TDOC. Other law enforcement and emergency management agencies also train there.
Among the findings:
• Failing grades were reported on tests, but students could complete the academy without a retest.
• Retests weren’t graded consistently. For example, three students had to take a retest. Two of the students received the maximum passing score of 75; a third student received a score of 80. A score of 80 exceeds the maximum allowable score on a retest, the report says.
• Some classes weren’t given a midterm or final exam while other classes were given those exams.
• Comptrollers said they couldn’t determine whether some trainees met the minimum hiring and academic standards because the records to verify compliance couldn’t be found.
• Auditors couldn’t find evidence of certification for four of the 22 instructors who taught classes.
Comptrollers said every student in one class made a grade of 100, even though paperwork said otherwise and that some students failed.
“We asked the instructor for an explanation, and he stated that after everyone took the initial test, the instructor went over the test and had certain people read off the questions, and the class would then provide answers until they got the question right,” Comptrollers said.
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