REQUESTS TWO EXTENSIONS TO FILE RESPONSE
by Sharon Rondeau
Ms. Taylor was notified by letter of the state’s request during the first week of June.
On November 23, 2017, as she had for the past two years, Ms. Taylor traveled two hours to the Turney Center Industrial Complex (TCIX) to visit a loved one. She reported that after she arrived, prison staff requested that she leave her keys at a security checkpoint, a change in protocol from her previous visits. She said she complied and was then able to visit with the inmate along with her two young children for approximately four hours.
When she made her exit back to the checkpoint to retrieve her keys, the correction officer stationed there, Corporal Neal, told her that he was unable to locate them. Showing no regard for her welfare or that of her children, Ms. Taylor said, corrections staff shockingly told her to leave the building with the children into the cold.
Unable to access her cell phone, which she had locked in her car, Taylor was forced to wait until local police arrived, summoned unceremoniously, she said, by the facility’s associate warden of security.
When we first learned of Ms. Taylor’s nightmarish experience last December, she told us:
…We couldn’t get into my car at all and we live 2 hours away. I was very distraught. At this time, T.C.I.X. acting Associate Warden of Security, Jason Clendenion, came to checkpoint. He was extremely rude, loud and arrogant. Officer Clendenion’s cruelty to me and my young girls was shocking. He ordered us to leave the building. Please understand that Cpl. Neal had lost my only key into my car and it was very cold out. I had two small children with me and he ordered us to leave. Not only did he put us out into the cold, he also called the police on us. When the police arrived, they immediately placed my daughters into their car to keep them warm and called a locksmith to open my door. Associate Warden of Security, Jason Clendenion then arrogantly told me that I better have $75.00 to pay the locksmith. He didn’t care that my keys had been lost by his officer that had demanded me leave them at checkpoint with him. The police officers were more considerate of my dilemma than the security officers at T.C.I.X., and they weren’t even the ones that were responsible for losing my keys…
Ultimately, Taylor accumulated $1,304 in expenses for two locksmith visits, the towing of her car from the prison to her home two hours away, and the manufacturing of a new car key by the dealership. She did not include the time she lost from work over a holiday weekend nor her time and effort expended in attempting to obtain reimbursement from the State of Tennessee for her financial loss.
She contacted TDOC Commissioner Tony Parker, relating the unfortunate incident and her expenses to an office worker, who promised Taylor a return call which never arrived, according to Taylor.
She then contacted TCIX Warden Kevin Genovese, who sent her a letter of apology, enclosing a claim form and suggesting that she would receive reimbursement from the state once she submitted the form and receipts for her expenses.
In late March, Taylor received a letter from the Tennessee Treasury Department’s Division of Claims Administration informing her that she was denied reimbursement on the grounds that “the claimant has the burden of establishing that actual damages or injuries have been suffered that were proximately caused by negligence on the part of the state officials.”
“According to your submitted claim,” the letter continued, “there is insufficient evidence to prove that any alleged damages or losses were proximately caused by negligence on the part of state officials; therefore, the claim is denied.”
Taylor appealed the denial to the Tennessee Claims Commission, from which she received an acknowledgement letter dated April 5, 2018. The letter indicated that the “tribunal” which would assemble to hear her case would follow the Tennessee Rules of Civil Procedure and Tennessee Rules of Evidence. “You are responsible for pursuing your claim, which includes responding to any motions filed by the attorney for the State…” the letter additionally said.
During the first week of June, Taylor received a motion from the Tennessee Claims Commission, represented by Attorney General and Reporter Herbert H. Slatery, III, requesting a ten-day extension to June 14 for filing a response to Taylor’s claim. “Defendant is waiting for information from the Tennessee Department of Correction to prepare Defendant’s response to this court,” the motion reads. “This request is not made in an attempt to prolong justice or impede the swift resolution of this matter.”
On Monday, Taylor received a second motion from the state, this time requesting a 30-day extension to July 14 on the grounds that “Defendant has received information from the Tennessee Department of Correction but needs additional time to sort through it and prepare Defendant’s response to this court.”