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Montgomery Named Chair of Parole Board

Press release from the Office of Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam; July 1, 2013:

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today appointed Richard Montgomery as chairman of the Board of Parole. Montgomery replaces Charles Traughber who retired last week after serving nearly 40 years on the board, much of that time as chairman.

“I am grateful for Chairman Traughber’s many years of service and dedication to our state,” Haslam said. “His experience and counsel was extremely helpful as we restructured the board to transition probation services to the Department of Correction to provide a more seamless and accountable process.

“Richard will do an outstanding job for the citizens of Tennessee in this new role,” Haslam continued. “His passion for the citizens and welfare of this state are well known, and he has the right balance of compassion and common sense to lead this important organization.”

Montgomery, 66, was appointed to the Board of Parole in January. Prior to that, he served 14 years in the General Assembly representing Sevier County. He served as chairman of the House Education Committee and was a member of other key committees including the House Commerce Committee, the Select Committee on Corrections Oversight, the Calendar and Rules Committee, the Joint Lottery Scholarship Committee, the Joint Education Oversight Committee, the Joint Workers’ Compensation Oversight Committee, and the Select Committee on Children and Youth.

“I am extremely humbled and honored to be selected by the governor to chair this important board,” Montgomery said. “I feel fortunate to be working alongside such dedicated and knowledgeable staff and board members. It is a tremendous privilege to be able to serve the citizens of Tennessee in this capacity.”

Montgomery is retired from the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, where he was operations manager for UT-Battelle for 27 years. He has also served on the Sevier County Board of Education along with several other community boards.

A graduate of Hiawassee Junior College and the University of Tennessee, Montgomery received the Gordon Fee Leadership in Education Award in 2012 from the Tennessee Business Roundtable. He also received the 2012 Leader in Education Legislative Award from the Tennessee Organization of School Superintendents. In 2010, he was named Legislator of the Year by the Tennessee Hospitality Association, and the Tennessee County Officials Association named him Legislator of
the Year in 2002.

Montgomery and his wife, Ann, live in Sevierville and have a grown daughter and son-in-law, Megan and Monte Miller, and a granddaughter, Josephine Clair.

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State Monitoring of Dead Parolees Draws Lawmakers’ Ire

Legislators hammered corrections and parole officials Wednesday for running a system that allowed officers to waste time and tax dollars “monitoring” 82 dead criminal offenders. The revelation raises many questions, among them is how closely tabs are being kept on former inmates who’re actually still among the living, they said.

“Its troubling enough to find out that we have employees who are supervising dead people. But those dead people aren’t exactly a menace to society today,” said outgoing Sen. Kerry Roberts, R-Springfield, during the Government Operations joint subcommittee on Capitol Hill.

“So my greater concern is what about the employees who are claiming to supervise people who are a threat to society, who are a menace to society. How do we know how much of this is taking place, that we have people who are claiming to check on folks and they’re not actually doing that?” he said.

The issue, one of eight highlighted in a damning state report released this week, prompted lawmakers to set a one-year deadline for the state Department of Correction and the Board of Probation and Parole to fix the problems. Pending approval from the Legislature, both agencies will be under the microscope of auditors in a year with a report due back to the Legislature in 2014.

But state officials say the timeframe is not realistic.

“It would take Superman to do that, and we don’t have Superman. He’s a great commissioner, but he’s not Superman,” Charles Traughber, chairman of the Board of Probation and Parole, said of DOC Commissioner Derrick Schofield, whose department is taking over monitoring parolees. Previously, the probation board did that.

The findings were “egregious” and “of such a magnitude that they require an immediate and urgent response,” Speaker Pro Tempore Bo Watson, R-Hixson, said.

The state report found that Probation and Parole Board workers were still checking in on parolees who had died, some 19 years ago. The report by the Comptroller’s office also found that 80 percent of GPS-monitored offender alarms “appear unmonitored.”

Assistant Correction Commissioner Gary Tullock said the agency fired two parole officers responsible for much of the faulty reporting on dead offenders, but Schofield said other employees likely contributed to the high number of erroneous reports.

According to the Department of Correction, the state monitors 13,000 offenders on parole and 56,000 people on probation. The state also supervises 7,500 people in community correction, a program that keeps less violent offenders out of prisons.

Overall, that’s 3,175 more offenders under state observation this year than last year, though the number of parole officers has not increased, Tullock said.

However, Schofield said it’s too early to say whether he’ll ask the governor to add to his department’s yearly budget.

“The first thing we say is we’re short-staffed. If you look at and examine how we supervise and how we do things, there’s always opportunities to find resources. If we need those resources, we will present that to the governor,” he told reporters.