Special Report: Anatomy of a Crisis - Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Special Report: Anatomy of a Crisis

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MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - Over the past year, the Memphis Sexual Assault Resource Center has deteriorated into an understaffed and overwhelmed facility.  Insiders call it a public safety concern - mismanagement that reaches the top offices in Memphis city government.

The rape crisis center was once a model for rape crisis treatment.  Specialized nurses and counselors treated victims from three states around the clock.  Their work collecting DNA evidence is crucial to convicting rapists and protecting victims.

So imagine the horror when a 14-year-old rape victim was told she'd have to wait almost two weeks to collect DNA.

"We were told they'd be open at eight in the morning to come back at eight that morning," said Lt. Scott Evans of the Horn Lake Police Department. "They called at eight that morning. They were advised the closest appointment would be May 8th."

Police say the rape happened April 28th. Why the wait?  An Action News Five investigation revealed severe under-staffing at the center, specialized nurses run off by mismanagement, and city-ordered residency rules that required nurses to live within Memphis city-limits.

Plus, the center has operated for more than a year now without an on-site manager.

"To go without a full-time quality director for over a year - it's untenable," said Deborah Clubb of the Memphis Women's Center.

Who's responsible?  For starters, Ken Moody, Memphis' Director of Public Services and Neighborhoods.  He oversees the Memphis Sexual Assault Resource Center, and for months, Shelby County District Attorney Bill Gibbons has been trying to get Moody to address serious problems.

"I have not heard from them," Gibbons said in a recent interview. "As a result, we would not be in a position to prosecute a case."

The nursing schedule at the center is shocking. During the month of April, the center was unstaffed almost 50 percent of the time, and that's with the Coordinator of Nursing Services working 24-hour shifts.

This was Judy Pinson's schedule:  On April 2nd, she worked 24 hours straight, from midnight Thursday to midnight Friday.  She worked 16 hours the day before, and triple shifts every Thursday three weeks in a row.

Pinson resigned after giving city leaders one month's notice, but sources say Moody and his staff did nothing to fill the position.

Moody's personnel includes his second in command, Yalonda McFadgon, the Deputy Director of Public Services and Neighborhoods.

Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton appointed McFadgon to the job after she served as the Mayor's bodyguard.  She was in prison before that, convicted of stealing drug money while she worked for the Memphis Police Department.
  
Former and current nurses at the center say McFadgon is not qualified to run a rape crisis center, and that she is responsible for the center's mismanagement.

Action News 5 asked Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton if McFadgon and others were qualified for their positions in a special report 10 months ago.  Mayor Herenton didn't want to answer questions then, or now.

"Whether the buck has been passed around or whether it was just not seen as some of the other many issues the city is dealing with I don't know," Clubb said.

Memphis City Council member Jim Strickland believes the center needs a complete overhaul from the top down.

"The council has not had adequate explanation of why we're in this emergency situation, but I think we're all determined to get to the bottom of it," Strickland said. "It really makes more sense to make this agency a county agency as opposed to a city agency, because it handles victims throughout the region."

Mayor Herenton doesn't want to hear that either. 

For now, the solution is temporarily bringing back some of the nurses who were fired, and a new director has been hired.  She's Dr. Betty Winter from the Memphis Police Department, and will be working under Yalonda McFadgon and Ken Moody.

Action News 5 asked Moody what he could do to ensure the public that is concerned about the center.

"Just let them know that we're concerned about it, we're aware of it, and we're dealing with it," he said. "We're going to address it.  Thank you."

Sources say until McFadgon and Moody's positions are addressed, problems at the center will persist.

"To have had a model, really a national model facility, that has been allowed in this recent time to deteriorate to the degree that even children who are coming for service are not tended to, it's abominable," Clubb said.

Action News 5 requested interviews with Yalonda McFadgon, as well as a sit-down interview with Ken Moody.  Those requests are made through Mayor Herenton's office, and so far, no one's talking.

We did speak to multiple sources for this story - both current and former employees of the center - who asked that we not reveal their identities.  Members of the Memphis City Council and Shelby County Commission will meet Tuesday to discuss the center's future.


We've heard from many of you concerning this matter, and want you to know you can take action.  If you want the issues resolved at the rape crisis center, call or email the Memphis Mayor's office or your city council representative and let your voice be heard!

MAYOR:

Willie W. Herenton
City Hall - 125 N. Main St. Room 700
Memphis, Tn 38103
Phone:  (901) 576-6007
Email: mayor @memphistn.gov
Mayor's Citywide Call Center during normal business hours (8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday except on holidays):
Phone: (901) 576-6500

CITY COUNCIL:

Bill Morrison
District 1
Contact Information:
125 N. Main, Room 514
Memphis, TN 38103
(901) 576-6786
Bill.Morrison@memphistn.gov

William C. Boyd
District 2
Contact Information:
William C. Boyd
125 N. Main, Room 514
Memphis, TN 38103
(901) 576-6786
Bill.Boyd@memphistn.gov

Harold B. Collins
District 3
Contact Information:
125 N. Main, Room 514
Memphis, TN 38103
(901) 576-6786
or
P.O. Box 301132
Memphis, TN 38130
(901) 545-5987 office
(901) 332-3691
Harold.Collins@memphistn.gov

Wanda Halbert
District 4
Contact Information:
125 N. Main, Room 514
Memphis, TN 38103
(901) 576-6786
Wanda.Halbert@memphistn.gov

Jim Strickland
District 5
Contact Information:
125 N. Main, Room 514
Memphis, TN 38103
(901) 576-6786
Jim.Strickland@memphistn.gov

Edmund Ford, Jr.
District 6
Contact Information:
125 N. Main, Room 514
Memphis, TN 38103
(901) 576-6786
Edmund.Fordjr@memphistn.gov

Barbara Swearengen Ware
District 7

Contact Information:
1636 Sydney
Memphis TN 38108
(901) 458-9406
Swearengen.Ware@memphistn.gov

Joe Brown
Super District 8
Position 1
Contact Information:
1384 Jackson
Memphis TN 38107
(901) 274-4724

Janis Fullilove
District 8, Position 2
Contact Information:
125 N. Main, Room 514
Memphis, TN 38103
(901) 576-6786
Janis.Fullilove@memphistn.gov

Myron Lowery
District 8, Position 3
Contact Information:
128 Harbor Isle Circle
Memphis TN 38103
(901) 521-4300
Myron.Lowery@memphistn.gov

Kemp Conrad
District 9, Position 1
Contact Information:
125 N. Main, Room 514
Memphis, TN 38103
Office (901) 576-6786
Fax (901) 576-6796
E-mail:
Kemp.Conrad@memphistn.gov

Shea Flinn
District 9, Position 2
Contact Information:
125 N. Main, Room 514
Memphis, TN 38103
(901) 576-6786
Shea.Flinn@memphistn.gov

Reid Hedgepeth
District 9, Position 3
Contact Information:
125 N. Main, Room 514
Memphis, TN 38103
(901) 576-6786
Reid.Hedgepeth@memphistn.gov

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