LEGITIMATE, OR A COZY ARRANGEMENT?
by Sharon Rondeau
(Mar. 30, 2019) — A copy of a letter received Friday from Tennessee inmate Grenda Ray Harmer, #88710, cites a state law which suggests that Tennessee Department of Correction (TDOC) Commissioner Tony Parker is prohibited from assuming responsibilities adjunct to his leadership at the agency.
Harmer is currently housed at the Morgan County Correctional Complex (MCCX) in protective custody, where he has been for more than 18 months. He has been reporting his observations of prison life, staff conduct and policy aberrations to this publication for more than two years.
The letter, addressed to Gov. Bill Lee and dated March 25, 2019, contends that Parker has a “conflict of interest” in serving as “President-Elect” of the American Correctional Association (ACA), as Parker’s online biography states as of January 3, 2019.
Harmer’s missive to Lee was prompted by an article published at The Post & Email on January 22, 2019. We did not send Harmer the article, nor did we know about his having referenced it to the governor until Friday.
“On January 27, 19 Editor Sharon Rondeau of The Post & Email wrote an article exposing MCCX female staff sexually harassed,” Harmer wrote. “The end of the article surprised me. Ms. Rondeau wrote that ‘Parker is currently “President-Elect” of the ACA.’ This should be raising eyebrows.” He then referenced Tennessee Code Annotated (TCA) § 4-3-603 (a).
The statute cited by Harmer reads, in its entirety:
Harmer’s citation of section (a) was identical to that in the statute with the exception of the emphasis he identified as his own.
Parker was elected to the post of “President-Elect” on October 5, 2018, as announced in a TDOC press release. “The position of President-Elect serves a two year term and later ascends to the President role for an additional two years,” the announcement states.
Harmer went on to make the case that Parker’s position at the ACA deflects him from devoting all of his “time and attention” to that of TDOC Commissioner. Secondly, Harmer claimed that it poses a “conflict of interest” based on Harmer’s claim that “The TDOC has to pay thousands of dollars each year to be an ACA member… As ACA President, Commissioner Parker can raise the membership dues and all other fees the TDOC has to pay increasing the ACA’s bank account. Just because the ACA alleges it’s non-profit has no bearing on § 4-3-603 (a). Nobody is going to be ACA President unless there’s a benefit…”
“This is corruption and should stop!!” Harmer concluded that paragraph.
Since June 2017, when he was relocated to MCCX, Harmer has reported short food rations; confiscation of his personal property;, the absence of policy-required reviews of his protective-custody status; gang members not only threatening inmates in the general population, but also in the PC unit; entrance of contraband into the prison assisted by correction officers; lax security measures; sexual harassment; stabbings and other violence; and cold air blowing into his cell during the winter months, necessitating his wearing of as many layers of clothing as he possesses.
Denial of medical care and use of the law library as well as physically-abusive correction officers have been reported by multiple inmates from across Tennessee’s prison system, including at MCCX.
On October 24, 2018, the TDOC reported in a headline, “MCCX Receives High Marks On ACA Audit.” The article reads:
The Tennessee Department of Correction (TDOC) is pleased to announce that one of its East Tennessee facilities recently passed their American Correctional Association (ACA) audit with high marks. Morgan County Correctional Complex (MCCX) recently passed the facilities’ ACA audit thus completing a key step to earning reaccreditation.
Morgan County Correctional Complex received a high score of 100% on the mandatory standards and 99.8% on the non-mandatory standards. According to TDOC Commissioner Tony Parker, “The vision of this department is to be recognized as the best correctional agency in the nation. Achieving reaccreditation is key to this vision. The high marks speak to the professionalism of the team at MCCX.”
ACA reaccreditation is expected to be awarded in January 2019 during the ACA Winter Conference.
Harmer is correct in that memberships in the ACA require annual or tri-annual dues which enable “voting privileges in ACA elections.”
Parker’s position as ACA “President-Elect” is noted on the organization’s website, which states he will serve a two-year term. His TDOC predecessor, Derrick Schofield, currently holds the position of ACA “Board of Governors Representative.”
On page 2, Harmer claimed that Parker’s dual duties are “unethical,” citing the TDOC Employee Code of Conduct’s reported “13 ethical guidelines.”
The Post & Email does not have a copy of the Code of Conduct and is routinely denied public records requests due to its location outside of Tennessee.
Harmer concluded his letter about Parker’s dual responsibilities by recommending that Lee “fire him as Commissioner or make him resign as ACA ‘President Elect’/’President.'”
As is Harmer’s custom, the letter is copied to numerous state representatives, two state senators, several media outlets, “U.S. Attorney General, Justice Department,” and Mike Parris, MCCX warden.
Sharon Rondeau has operated The Post & Email since April 2010, focusing on the Obama birth certificate investigation and other government corruption news. She has reported prolifically on constitutional violations within Tennessee’s prison and judicial systems.