Tennessee Bureau of Investigation director announces retirement

Staff Reports • Feb 8, 2018 at 5:57 PM

After 14 years, Tennessee Bureau of Investigation director Mark Gwyn announced Thursday he will be retiring later this year.

Gwyn will remain as director until June 1. At that time, the selection process will begin for his successor. He sent out a memo Thursday morning to all Tennessee Bureau of Investigation staff.

“During my tenure, I have done all that I can do to improve our resources, training and equipment for the bureau family and, along with your hard work, TBI has become the best state law enforcement agency in this state and this country,” said Gwyn. “We have come a very long way, and I am honored to have served in this capacity for so long. I hope I have left, in part, a legacy that reflects the integrity, leadership and compassion that touches every facet of this agency. It was my goal to leave the bureau better than it was when it was given to me.”

State House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh, D-Ripley, released a statement after he heard about Gwyn’s retirement.

“For 14 years, Mark Gwyn has run the TBI and performed at the highest of levels,” said Fitzhugh. “His leadership will be missed by Tennesseans and I will personally miss his professionalism. I know that many across the state join me in wishing Mark well.”

Gwyn’s announcement comes at a time when the TBI is amid a bit of controversy regarding its hiring practices.

State Sen. Mark Pody was among several lawmakers who questioned the TBI’s hiring practices in late January, sparked by the hiring of two Cumberland University graduates.

Gwyn appeared before several lawmakers to defend the agency’s hiring practices, which lawmakers said ignores state law that the agency must give preference to veterans.

Pody, R-Lebanon, among other legislators, said the law was designed to give preference to veterans during the hiring process over an equally qualified citizen. Gwyn said he believed the law was intended to mean veterans “may” receive preference and not intended to instruct him on hiring practices.

"When I vote on something like that, and it says that they shall – I'm telling you – we're voting, saying that we shall give them preference for hiring," Pody said during the meeting.

An investigation into the agency’s hiring process started after former TBI human resources employee Melissa Smith said the agency ignored the law, keying in on the hire of two Cumberland University graduates with ties to agency leadership.

The agency hired Hunter Locke and Luke Webb as special agents, although, according to Smith, they were not as qualified as other applicants. Locke is the son of TBI deputy director Jason Locke, while Webb is the stepson of TBI drug investigation division assistant director T.J. Jordan.

Smith said she highlighted the practice as nepotism and said TBI human resources director Pamela Busby attempted to hide the practice when creating language about the preferential hiring of veterans.

“When I pointed out that it would be flat-out nepotism if someone wanted to challenge the letter, they just took it out. They just tried to reword the veteran letters in a way that would make more sense without having to put ‘legacy’ in there,” said Smith, who pointed to Webb’s hiring.

“There were other veterans who were applying that were way more qualified than this young man was. I mean, they’d had multiple years in law enforcement experience and specialized training in interrogation, SWAT, military awards like crazy. They were combat veterans, but for some reason, they didn’t have enough experience to be an agent, but this young man – who happened to be the stepson of one of the assistant directors – apparently, he had something special about him,” Smith said.

Gwyn said last year he did not believe hiring the two men equated to nepotism.

“At the end of the day, if I felt like – because I knew the values you had – that you had instilled those same values in your son, I would take a good look at that. I may absolutely hire him,” Gwyn said. “What you may think is qualified may be totally different than what I think is qualified.”

Gwyn said in late January he would not shun veterans and said he would give preference to veterans if instructed by lawmakers.

“I don’t mind giving them all of the preference that you tell me to,” he said.

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