commissioner

Parker to retire as corrections commissioner

Gov. Bill Lee, bottom left, looks on as his Cabinet takes the oath of office in Nashville on Jan. 19, 2019. (Erik Schelzig Tennessee Journal)

Commissioner Tony Parker is retiring this fall after 38 years with the Tennessee Department of Correction. Parker was named commissioner by then-Gov. Bill Haslam in 2016 and Gov. Bill Lee retained him in the Cabinet when he was sworn into office in 2019.

Here’s the release from Lee’s office:

NASHVILLE – After 38 years of dedicated service to the Tennessee Department of Correction, Commissioner Tony Parker has announced his retirement, effective this fall.  Parker began his career as a correctional officer and rose through the ranks to Commissioner following his initial appointment by former Governor Bill Haslam in 2016 and re-appointment by Governor Bill Lee in 2019.

“I am forever grateful to Governor Bill Lee for placing his trust in me and allowing me to continue to serve as Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Correction.  After 38 years of service, I have decided to retire this fall to return to West Tennessee and catch up on spending quality time with my family and friends,” said Parker.

“Tony Parker is a true public servant, and I am deeply grateful for his commitment to making Tennessee a safer place to live, work and raise a family,” said Gov. Lee.  “Over the last four decades, Commissioner Parker played a pivotal role in efforts to enhance public safety and improve Tennessee’s criminal justice system, and his impact on the Department of Correction will be seen for many years to come.  Maria and I wish Commissioner Parker and his family the best in their next chapter.”

Parker, who also serves as president of the American Correctional Association, counts among the agency’s accomplishments during his tenure: passage and implementation of the Public Safety Act of 2016, a consistent decline in recidivism for individuals leaving TDOC custody, as well as a reduction of individuals returning to incarceration for technical violations, creation of Day Reporting Centers as an alternative to incarceration, and salary increases for correctional staff.

“While we have accomplished much, there is more to be done that the government cannot do alone.  Criminal justice reform will require the collaboration of non-profit and private sector partners, working with public agencies at every level to achieve true sustainable success.  Serving under Governor Lee has provided me an opportunity to see the positive effects true criminal justice reform can have on the lives of the formerly incarcerated.  The Governor’s passion for ensuring individuals are better prepared to lead successful lives as productive citizens after incarceration will have a lasting impact on our state by creating safer and healthier communities and fewer victims,” said Parker.

Before being named Commissioner, Parker served as Assistant Commissioner, Correctional Administrator and Warden, among other roles.  He has led the agency’s more than 6,000 employees, supervision of more than 20,000 incarcerated individuals and 70,000 people on community supervision since 2016.

“It has been the honor of my lifetime to serve Tennessee and its citizens. May God continue to bless our great state,” said Parker.

Report: Former commissioner kept consulting gig, had free housing at state prison

Commerce and Insurance Commissioner Hodgen Mainda speaks in Nashville on Nov. 8, 2019. (Image Credit: Tennessee Department of Veterans Services)

Former state Commerce and Insurance Commissioner Hodgen Mainda kept a lucrative consulting contract with his former employer and lived in free state-owned housing on the grounds of the old Tennessee State Prison in Nashville, according to the Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Mainda left his senior position at Chattanooga’s Electric Power Board last year, but signed a consulting agreement with EPB that would pay him $8,300 a month (later revised to $5,000) at the same time he was employed in his $161,904-per-year role of commissioner.

After Mainda announced he was stepping down from his state job last month, news reports surfaced that he had been the subject of a sexual misconduct investigation after a subordinate alleged unwanted advances had been made during an out-of-state work conference in February. Mainda denied inappropriate conduct.

Gov. Bill Lee was dismissive about questions over the propriety of holding a senior role in his administration while at the same time being paid by an outside entity, saying “alternative streams of income” are allowed as long as
they don’t present a conflict of interest. Mainda included consulting work in his state ethics disclosure, but didn’t say for whom he was serving as an adviser.

Tennessee Department of Correction spokeswoman Dorinda Carter told the Chattanooga Times Free Press that when TDOC Commissioner Parker reached out congratulate Mainda on his new job last year, he mentioned he was looking for housing. Parker offered Mainda the use of a home on the former prison property usually reserved for wardens, assistant commissioners, and staff.

“It was intended to be temporary,” Carter said. Mainda only moved out in October.