Seems an anonymous tip to the state's Correction Department opened a few eyes to the case and the inmate's state job "abruptly ended". The Tennessean paper has the full story - which raises far more questions than answers about some of the policies of the state's work-release program.
While I certainly applaud programs to help former inmates find employment, the key word is "former". I had no idea an inmate still serving time could be hired by any agency, much less the TEMA, which coordinates statewide responses to natural disasters and Homeland Security issues.
Some info in the news report revealed:
"TEMA is part of the state Military Department, headed by state National Guard chief Maj. Gen. Gus Hargett Jr. His son, Tre' Hargett, is a state representative from Bartlett, the Memphis suburb where Erickson had a law practice at the time he hatched the murder plot.
Tre' Hargett said he knew Erickson's name but was not familiar with him. "I don't think he was real active in the community," he said Friday.
Gus Hargett declined through a spokesman to be interviewed for this story.
However, the general did write a letter on Feb. 23, 2005, to Personnel Commissioner Randy Camp arguing for a special exemption to compensation guidelines so that Erickson could be paid more than his job classification, administrative services assistant 2, would normally warrant.
Hargett praised Erickson's previous work for TEMA, initially doing maintenance on its radiological detection devices and later working in its logistics unit.
"Mr. Erickson has a Bachelor's Degree in Social Justice with an emphasis on English," Hargett wrote. "He also acquired his Juris Doctorate and previously owned his own business named The Erickson Law firm, where he practiced Real Estate Law.
Prior to owning his own business, he worked for The Law Firm of W. Terry Edwards, where he assisted with real estate closings and other related paperwork.
"Due to the amount of responsibility placed upon this position, coupled with Mr. Erickson's education, this department feels justified in requesting the aforementioned salary range," the general wrote.
Camp approved the extra pay, according to a document in Erickson's personnel file.
Nowhere in the letter did the general mention that Erickson was a prison inmate, had a felony conviction, had tried to kill his wife to get insurance money or had surrendered his law license when he pleaded guilty."