Report on TBI, county clerks’ meth offender database problems brings warning letter from Shipley

Rep. Tony Shipley, chairman of the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee, has written a letter to court clerks in all 95 counties and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation urging they abide by a state law requiring information on convicted meth offenders be placed in a database, reports WTVF-TV.

The station says some county clerks have never sent the names of meth offenders to the TBI and the TBI, as a result, never put their names on the list – designed to block the offenders from buying pseudoephedrine. Further, it found 777 names of offenders who were reported to the TBI, but still didn’t have their names entered on the list.

“The wholesale disregard for this is shocking to me,” Shipley said.

…The county court clerk in Cannon County did not even know about the nine-year-old law until we asked her.

“Really I don’t remember that we were ever asked to send orders to them for meth convictions,” Lynne Foster said.

Cannon County has a large meth problem, but no one from the county is on the TBI’s Meth Offender Registry – which blocks convicts from buying pseudoephedrine.

“Maybe we didn’t do our job in notifying these people — well, that stops today,” Shipley said.

Shipley’s letter cited the state law and encouraged the TBI and all county clerks to follow the law.

“This is the last time we are going to ask,” the lawmaker added. “We’re asking with a feather. Next year, we will use blunt force trauma and do things like hold your highway funds.”

…(The station’s report) led to finger pointing between the TBI and the private company that is supposed to block purchases.

“If the TBI tells us to block a person, we block them,” said the vice president of Appriss.

Appriss is a private, for-profit company, paid by the drug companies to block inappropriate sales of pseudoephedrine.

The TBI responded, “We gave them 777 names. They’re the ones that allowed them to buy.”

The TBI now admits that the agency never sent driver’s license numbers of convicted offenders to Appriss as required by state law. They started sending the numbers immediately after our questions.

“I am somewhat bemused the TBI admits to making a mistake. You don’t hear that very often,” Shipley said.

He said that his letter puts everyone on notice.

“If you can’t comply with a simple request of the law, then we will supply the encouragement to comply,” Shipley said.