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Lawmakers Concerned About Privacy Breach

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Another state employee is getting fired for running unauthorized criminal background checks.

This time it's a probation officer accused of accessing the private information of his neighbors.

A state probation officer's actions are being investigated by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.

Some state lawmakers are voicing concern about people's privacy.

This is the third case involving the misuse of state's criminal justice portal this year.

He is the second state employee out of a job after charges he violated people's privacy.  Thomas Dean is accused of accessing Tennessee's criminal justice portal to run unauthorized criminal background checks.

Dean refused to talk when NewsChannel 5 Investigates first broke the story in October.  NewsChannel 5 uncovered a Metro police report that indicated he admitted to accessing the criminal justice portal to get personal information about his neighbors.

"It's disturbing that we are seemingly hearing much more about abuses of this and that's something that should concern all of us," said state Rep. Gary Odom.

He is anxious to see whether the district attorney files criminal charges. 

Earlier this year, the Tennessee Highway Patrol fired Lt. Ronnie Shirley after he ran unauthorized background checks on nearly 200 people.

Earlier this month, Smyrna airport police officer Chris Sorey resigned after admitting running unauthorized check using the state Web site.

"We're talking about privacy and I think our citizens are entitled to privacy," Odom said.

Dean's troubles began when he showed up at his neighbor's home and, according to the police report, claimed he was an immigration officer.

"He said he is immigration and he is going to put us in jail," said Jackeline Trippiedi.

She lives near Dean and lives in the United States legally.  The police report said Dean "called them a racial slur" and ran their names through the criminal justice portal.

"How can he be checking on you? That's no good," she said. "We're not criminals. We're not doing anything wrong."

NewsChannel 5 discovered Dean and his brother also run a private investigative firm, but the TBI said it did not investigate whether they used to criminal justice portal for their private business.

The Davidson County District Attorney will decide whether Dean and Shirley should face criminal charges.

Sorey will not face any criminal charges.

Dean has been on paid administrative leave since August.  The board of probation and parole plans to hold a termination hearing later this month.

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