Citing ADA, TN hires armed security officer with lousy vision

Citing ADA, TN hires armed security officer with lousy vision

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.

Job advertisement TDOC released seeing new corrections officers (photo courtesy of TDOC's official Facebook page).

Job advertisement TDOC released seeing new corrections officers (photo courtesy of TDOC’s official Facebook page).

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.

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“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.”

Tony Parker (photo courtesy of TDOC's official website)

Tony Parker (photo courtesy of TDOC’s official website)

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.

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• 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 had several findings at the Tennessee Corrections Academy (photo courtesy of the Tennessee Corrections Academy's official website)

Auditors had several findings at the Tennessee Corrections Academy (photo courtesy of the Tennessee Corrections Academy’s official website)

• 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.

Contact Christopher Butler at chris@tennesseewatchdog.org 

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  • Janice Dean

    I wish I had known that you existed during the last four years when the mayor of Mount Carmel was using his power to throw the Senior Citizens out of the municipal building where they had been for 38 years. There was no one in the State of Tenn that would help keep him from doing this. Finally, some of the board of mayor & alderman turned on him & helped us get back into the building. But much damage was done to the group because State funding was lost because of losing our permanent address at the time to apply for the State service. By the way, he was voted out of office in Nov. and is under investigation by the T.B.I. now for a separate misconduct.

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