Thursday, April 25, 2019

City, County Look to End Street-Level Homelessness With New Facility

Posted By on Thu, Apr 25, 2019 at 5:01 PM

Rendering of planned facility - FULL BUILD
  • Full Build
  • Rendering of planned facility

A new homeless shelter for women and expanded programs to combat homelessness in the city were announced by city and county officials Thursday

At a joint meeting of the Memphis City Council and the Shelby County Commission Thursday, officials detailed plans for an $8 million relocation and expansion of the Hospitality Hub, an organization that assists homeless men and women, providing customized care, resources, or referrals in partnership with other organizations.

Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland who was at Thursday’s meeting said homelessness is a “community issue and what we’re bringing to you today is a community solution.”

The solution addresses the lack of emergency shelter beds for homeless women and of assistance for the homeless population during the day,” Strickland said.

The new Hub, which will move from a spot near Second and Beale to the former City of Memphis Public Service Inspection Station on Washington, will house a resource center, an outdoor day plaza, and a women’s shelter.

The women’s shelter will be built to house at least 32 women, officials said. Kelcey Johnson, executive director of the Hub said the shelter is meant to house women for four to nine days, but in some cases, women might need to stay up to 30 days.

Johnson said there is a significant need for shelters here that serve women: “I never have to say to a man ‘tonight you have to sleep outside, but I frequently have to say to a woman ‘tonight you have to sleep outside because there’s no bed for you.’”

Based on data from the Hub, 37 percent of Memphis’ homeless population are women, but only 6 percent of the beds in shelters are open to women, city council chairman Kemp Conrad noted.

“A barrier-free facility for homeless women in our community does not exist, and it is unacceptable,” Conrad said.

The outdoor day plaza, to be created in partnership with Youngblood Studio, will be a place that the homeless individuals can relax and rest.

The plaza will include shade, seating, art, play areas, a garden, and a stage. The Hub also plans to activate the space with music, food, and art programs. The space will serve as a heating and cooling center as well.

The plaza is expected to be open by summer.

Layout of planned facility - FULL BUILD
  • Full Build
  • Layout of planned facility

Private funding totaling $5 million has already been secured for the facility. The city and county are both planning to add additional funds to that each year through 2021 of up to $1.2 million.

The goal of this new effort is to eliminate street-level homelessness within 30 months, officials said.

The city council and county commission will vote on a resolution confirming funding allocations at their next respective meetings in May.

Tags: , , , , ,

Verizon 5G Network Hyped as Boon to Memphis Transportation, Agriculture, Manufacturing

Posted By on Thu, Apr 25, 2019 at 1:41 PM

  • Verizon/Facebook

“Feature-length HD movies can be downloaded faster than you can read this sentence.”

That’s a quote from the Verizon website about just how fast its 5G Ultra Wideband mobile service will be for consumers.

Verizon’s network is coming to 20 U.S. cities this year. And, as a surprise to the cynical Memphian inside some of us, Memphis made the cut, and the network is expected to radiate across the city soon.

Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland’s office announced Thursday that Verizon had chosen the city. The service is already live in Chicago and Minneapolis.

“Today’s announcement is just the start for Memphis and we’re excited to bring the game-changing power of 5G Ultra Wideband service to consumers, business, and government agencies in 2019,” Kyle Malady, Verizon’s chief technology officer said in a statement.

How big of a deal is this? Well, according to Strickland and Verizon, it’s a big deal.

Strickland seemed convinced that making the cut was “another testament that our momentum is real and will play a large part in continuing to advance equitable economic development throughout our city.” (The statement from Memphis City Hall ensured Strickland’s election-year buzzword “momentum” was introduced somewhere into the news cycle.)

Verizon said the new network has the potential to affect ”artificial intelligence, education, healthcare, robotics, virtual reality, augmented reality, autonomous vehicles, wearables, and the Internet of Things (IoT).”
“With its gigabit speeds and unprecedented response times, 5G can be thought of as the ’secret sauce’ that will make driverless cars, cloud-connected traffic control, and other applications that depend on instantaneous response and data analysis live up to their potential,” reads the Verizon website on its 5G network. “The possibilities are limitless.”

Verizon website says 5G isn’t just another iteration of the wireless network. It’ll be 20 times faster than the current 4G network, “making lag times nearly impossible to detect.” With this, augmented reality and virtual reality applications can work “seamlessly,” Verizon said. Also, industrial and machinery and robotics can be controlled remotely, it said.

  • Verizon/Facebook
Verizon said 5G will create jobs (but it didn’t specify what kinds of jobs those are or where they’d be located).

“By 2035, 5G will enable $12.3 trillion of global economic output and support 22 million jobs worldwide,” Ronan Dunne, executive vice president and group president of Verizon Wireless said in a statement. “Much of that growth will come from the digitization of transportation, agriculture, manufacturing and other physical industries.” Transportation. Agriculture. Manufacturing. A whole lot of each of those exists in the Memphis economic region. But you’ll only be able to connect to the lightning-fast new 5G network with a 5G-enabled device. If you have one, and you leave the 5G network zone, you’ll be automatically handed off to the current 4G network, Verizon said.

The other cities to get 5G this year are: Atlanta, Boston, Charlotte, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Dallas, Des Moines, Denver, Detroit, Houston, Indianapolis, Kansas City, Little Rock, Phoenix, Providence, San Diego, Salt Lake City, and Washington D.C.

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

County Poised to Invest Record Amount in Pre-K

Posted By on Wed, Apr 24, 2019 at 12:09 PM

A pre-k class at Porter Leath - PORTER LEATH
  • Porter Leath
  • A pre-k class at Porter Leath

Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris’ 2020 budget proposal will include the largest investment in pre-K in county history, according to officials.

Harris announced Tuesday that the budget allocates $6 million for pre-K and early childhood education.

The mayor will present his full proposed budget to the Shelby County Commission on April 29th.

If approved, $5.5 million will go toward pre-K classrooms and the remaining $500,000 will be allocated to the Porter-Leath organization for Early Head Start, a program that helps families care for their infants and toddlers through comprehensive services. Porter-Leath will use that investment to leverage more than $4 million in additional resources, officials said.

The mayor’s budget is also expected to identify a dedicated funding source for early childhood education.

“If funding is approved, we have a chance to increase literacy, the likelihood of high school graduation, and, further down the road, employability,” Harris said. “We have a chance to ignite a boom in community benefit.”

This comes as an $8 million grant that has funded 1,000 students since 2014 is set to run out in June. The county and city plan to invest $16.6 in pre-K by 2022, which should fund those 1,000 seats plus an additional 1,000 more.

The city began looking at funding county-wide pre-K last year, putting $3 million of excess city revenues as seed money into a dedicated fund. Additionally, a portion of city property tax revenue and taxes paid by companies whose PILOT (pay-in-lieu-of-taxes) incentive has expired began going to the fund.

The Memphis City Council and the Shelby County Commission both voted in March to select a fiscal agent that will manage and raise additional dollars for the pre-K fund. The fiscal agent will also be tasked with creating high-quality pre-K classrooms.

The city and county have not yet announced who the fiscal agent will be. 

Tags: , ,

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Monitor in Police Spying Case Says MPD Has Been "Extremely Cooperative"

Posted By on Tue, Apr 23, 2019 at 3:43 PM

Protesters and police officers face off during the 2016 Hernando de Soto bridge protest - BRANDON DILL
  • Brandon Dill
  • Protesters and police officers face off during the 2016 Hernando de Soto bridge protest

The head of the team appointed by the court to monitor the Memphis Police Department’s (MPD) adherence to a federal judge’s October ruling on police surveillance said at a Tuesday hearing that the city has been “cooperative” and “responsive” so far. 

U.S. District Judge Jon McCalla appointed former U.S. Attorney Ed Stanton of the Butler Snow Law Firm to lead the independent monitoring group in December after he ruled in the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Tennessee v. the city of Memphis case. McCalla said the city failed to train its officers on the 1978 consent decree that bars political surveillance of citizens and that MPD did violate that decree.

As a result, the court imposed sanctions on the police department, including the appointment of Stanton and several others to monitor the implementation of the court’s recommendations.

The court instructed the department to revise its policies on political intelligence and train officers accordingly, establish a process for approving criminal investigations that may incidentally result in gathering political intelligence, establish written guidelines for the use of social media searches, and maintain a list of those searches.

Ed Stanton III
  • Ed Stanton III

Giving a progress report to the court, Stanton said Tuesday that over the past three and a half months, the team has been acting as the “eyes and ears of the court,” conducting a comprehensive review of MPD’s code of conduct, it’s onboarding and training process, and social media practices, including a record of the search terms used by the department.

“It’s important to know that to date, the city, through its counsel, has been extremely cooperative, responsive, and resourceful in providing the documents and files the monitoring team has requested thus far,” Stanton said. “Still, it’s impossible to obtain instant solutions or compliance.”

Stanton said the team is still evaluating data and thousands of documents from the city.

Another important part of the process will be meeting with Lt. Col. Anthony Rudolph, training commander for MPD, to learn more about the training officers receive relating to social media and surveillance.

Stanton said the team was hoping to meet with Rudolph before Tuesday’s hearing, but wasn’t able to as Rudolph is out of the country.

Judge McCalla said meeting with Rudolph is crucial to the process, calling the parties’ inability to set a meeting with the commander a “miscue” that should not have occurred: “This should have happened a while ago.”

Another member of the monitoring team, Jim Letten, a former U.S. Attorney, said once Rudolph returns, the team will assess MPD’s current policies and training program, adjusting or adding to it if necessary. The aim is to “preserve the department’s investigative goals” while “preserving the right to express and enjoy the First Amendment.”

To do this, the department has to put a training program in place that will “reach every single officer in the department,” training them to “recognize and protect First Amendment rights,” Letten said.

The final recommendations the team makes to the court won’t “threaten degrading the police department’s ability to effectively investigate, find offenders, and protect citizens,” but it won’t “offend the consent decree,” Letten said.

Rachel Levinson-Walden of the Brennan Center for Justice in New York, also serving on the monitoring team, said MPD has made “significant efforts” to address the concerns raised by the team.

Levinson-Walden said this has been “a major factor” in the team’s ability to accommodate the court’s requests.

“The city has made significant progress already and has been extremely cooperative, but there’s more to be done in terms of training and putting protocols in place and in terms of embracing the values set out by this court,” Levinson-Walden said. “Where we are seeing the policies headed are by-and-large in a very good direction.”

But Levinson-Walden reminded the court of why everyone was there Tuesday in the first place: ”In general, social media surveillance by law enforcement can be intimidating and chilling, especially when the focus is people exercising their constitutional right or when it’s disproportionately focused on communities of color.”

Citing a set of police guidelines relating to the use of social media for intelligence drafted by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance in 2013, Levinson-Walden highlighted the need for oversight mechanisms to make sure the department is adhering to the consent decree.

The 2013 guidelines recommend that any law enforcement action involving undercover activity, including developing an undercover profile on social media, should require documentation of all activity, periodic reviews, and auditing of the undercover processes.

Levinson-Walden also said that if a police department is using social media for investigative purposes, then its social media policies should be available to the public.

This isn’t an area that has gotten much attention on a national level, she said. But she and others are in the process of drafting legislation that would put transparency and accountability mechanisms in place for law enforcement agencies using social media.

Levinson-Walden found through a survey that of the 156 police departments in the country who have purchased social media monitoring software, only 18 of them have information-gathering policies that are available to the public.

A major focus of the legislation would be to make sure the public understands how law enforcement is using social media and have an opportunity to provide input on that process.

The bill would also provide certain protections for juveniles, put restrictions on undercover accounts, and require a yearly report from departments on how they are using social media.

Judge McCalla told the monitoring team, along with attorneys for the city and the ACLU that he would like to have all proposed policy revisions drafted within 90 days.

Tags: , , , ,

Lawsuit Challenges Tennessee Transgender Restrictions

Posted By on Tue, Apr 23, 2019 at 1:16 PM

Kayla Gore, of Memphis, speaks during a news conference Tuesday outside the federal courthouse in Nashville. - LAMBDA LEGAL
  • Lambda Legal
  • Kayla Gore, of Memphis, speaks during a news conference Tuesday outside the federal courthouse in Nashville.

Four transgender Tennesseans sued the state Tuesday to challenge a law prohibiting them from changing the gender marker on their birth certificates.

The case was filed by Lambda Legal, a national advocacy group working for the civil rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people, and those with HIV. The lead plaintiff in the case is Kayla Gore, 33, of Memphis.

“I have been a woman my entire life,” Gore said in a statement. “However, the state of Tennessee refuses to recognize my identity and forces me to carry incorrect identity documents.
“In times where anti-trans violence is escalating, especially against transgender women of color, I deserve to have identity documents that reflect who I am and don’t put me in harm’s way – the same as anyone would want for themself and their loved ones.”

Tennessee is one of only three states, including Kansas and Ohio, that bars citizens from changing their gender on their birth certificate. Lambda Legal filed lawsuits challenging policies in those states, too.

“Forty-seven states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico acknowledge the importance of allowing people to have access to essential government identity documents that accurately reflect their sex, consistent with their gender identity,” said Lambda Legal senior attorney Omar Gonzalez-Pagan. “It is time for Tennessee to join them. We won’t rest until we remove every governmental barrier to recognizing and respecting every transgender person’s identity in this country.”

The suit was here filed Tuesday in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee in Nashville on behalf of four transgender people born in Tennessee – Gore, Jason Scott, and two plaintiffs identified by their initials, L.G. and K.N.

In the suit, Lambda Legal argues Tennessee’s policies violate the Equal Protection and Due Process clauses of the U.S. Constitution. Also, policies here violate citizens’ free speech rights, according to Lambda Legal.
“I have had to put up with a lot since I decided to live as the man that I am over twenty-five (25) years ago,” said Scott, one of the plaintiffs in the suit. "The state of Tennessee does not get to define who I am by incorrectly identifying me as female on my birth certificate. Getting a correct birth certificate in alignment with who I am would be life-changing.”

For more on the case, go here

Tags: , , ,

Tennessee, Google Partner on Drug Disposal

Posted By on Tue, Apr 23, 2019 at 11:57 AM


You probably know you shouldn’t flush medications you don’t want anymore. It's bad for the environment. But maybe you don’t know what to do with them. Well, now you can Google it.

The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) partnered with Google Maps on a new map that shows exactly where you can take those unwanted drugs.

There are now 334 permanent collection bins across the state for expired, unused, or unwanted household medications across all 95 Tennessee counties. You can find them using Google Maps. Just type “drug drop off near me” or “medication disposal near me.”

In Memphis, many of the bins are located at police precincts, Walgreens, and CVS stores.

Find a drug disposal bin in your neighborhood with this handy map. - TENNESSEE DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENT AND CONSERVATION
  • Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation
  • Find a drug disposal bin in your neighborhood with this handy map.

“With just a single search on Google, Americans can quickly find convenient disposal locations open year-round, and do their part to reduce the harmful health and environmental impacts of excess medications,” said Google User Safety Initiative senior counsel Michael Trinh.

Flushing medications or draining drugs down a sink allows chemicals to enter streams or groundwater where they can affect drinking water and stream ecosystems. Wastewater treatment plants are not designed to adequately remove chemicals found in drugs, according to TDEC.

Medications accepted in the bins include liquid prescriptions, ointments, pills, over-the-counter medications, and pet medications.

But if you’d really like to be part of a national drug-disposal event, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) is hosting Drug Take-Back Day on April 27th. Drop off your drugs with the feds here.

Tags: , , , , ,

Monday, April 22, 2019

Shelby County Fills Fewer Opioid Prescriptions, Sees More Overdose Deaths

Posted By on Mon, Apr 22, 2019 at 11:58 AM

The opioid fentanyl can be 100 times more potent than morphine. - DEA
  • DEA
  • The opioid fentanyl can be 100 times more potent than morphine.

Though the number of opioid prescriptions filled each year in Tennessee and Shelby County has been decreasing since 2013, the number of opioid overdose deaths have not. 

The latest available data from the Tennessee Department of Health (TDH) shows that of the 1,776 drug overdose deaths that occurred in the state in 2017, 1,268 of them were opioid related.

Nationwide, 30 Americans die every day from opioid overdose, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Opioids include prescription opioids such as hydrocodone, oxycodone, morphine, and fentanyl, which can be 100 times more potent than morphine, as well as heroin and opium.

Shelby County saw a total of 207 drug overdose deaths in 2017. Of those, 159 were caused by an opioid. Nine more opioid-related deaths occurred that year than in 2016 and 66 more than in 2013. 

Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid often mixed with other illegal drugs and sold on the street, was by far the deadliest opioid in Shelby County in 2017. It led to 106 overdose deaths, while heroin led to 59 and opioid pain relievers led to 52.

Fatal overdose data for Shelby County - TENNESSEE DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH
  • Tennessee Department of Health
  • Fatal overdose data for Shelby County

Shelby County had the state's third-highest number of opioid overdose deaths in 2017 behind Knox County, which had 196, and Davidson County, which had 184.

The TDH report also shows that in 2017, 66 percent of Tennesseans who died from an opioid overdose, filled a prescription included in the Tennessee Controlled Substance Monitoring Database within a year of their death.

Thirty-seven percent of Tennessee residents who died from an overdose that year filled a prescription for an opioid within two months of their death. This is a 20 percent decrease from the number who did so in 2013.

Just under 6.9 million opioid prescriptions were filled across the state in 2017. That's a little over a million less than were filled in 2013. 

In Shelby County, which has a population of about 939,000 people, 607,512 opioid prescriptions were filled for pain in 2017. This number has steadily declined from 2013 when 718,103 opioid prescriptions were filled.

D. Michael Dunavant, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Tennessee, said last week that many times those who end up addicted to heroin start with a dependence to prescription painkillers.

“Opioid misuse and abuse is an insidious epidemic, created in large part by the over-prescribing of potent opioids nationwide, and unfortunately, Tennessee and West Tennessee is at the center of that epidemic,” Dunavant said at a press conference last week as he detailed the indictment of sixteen medical professionals from Tennessee, including five from Memphis who allegedly illegally distributed of opioid prescriptions.

The five Memphis medical professionals — three doctors and two nurses — who were indicted along with 11 others from Jackson, Tennessee, were arrested in a sweep last week coordinated by U.S. Attorneys and the Department of Justice’s Appalachian Regional Prescription Opioid Strike Force (ARPO).

Together the medical professionals allegedly distributed more than 350,000 prescriptions for controlled substances, equaling about 32 million pills.

Tags: , , , ,

Spring Breakers Push Airport Traffic

Posted By on Mon, Apr 22, 2019 at 11:57 AM

Tags: , , , ,

Airbnb Nearly Doubles Tax Projections in First Year

Posted By on Mon, Apr 22, 2019 at 10:19 AM

  • Airbnb/Facebook

Airbnb said Monday it has nearly doubled the expected tax revenues for Tennessee in its first full year here.

Airbnb, the home-sharing tech company, announced an agreement with the Tennessee Department of Revenue in January 2018. The agreement allowed Airbnb to collect and remit taxes to the state and local governments.

When the agreement took effect in March 2018, the company projected it would bring $13 million in annual revenue for the state. Airbnb announced Monday it brought in a total of $22.4 million to state coffers.

“This tax agreement is allowing our hosts and platform to deliver revenue and economic activity to rural parts of Tennessee that lack traditional hospitality options,” said Laura Spanjian, Airbnb’s senior policy director. “We hope to build on this economic impact in year two.”

Airbnb also has agreements with Memphis, Knoxville, and Hamilton County (Chattanooga), to collect and remit local occupancy taxes for their hosts.

In 2018, Airbnb hosts in Tennessee welcomed more than 1.4 million guests.

Airbnb claims its service has complemented, rather than competed with, Tennessee’s hotel industry. A news release from the company said Airbnb expands lodging capacity in cities during large events, like college football in Knoxville, the Tri-Cities area during NASCAR events, and the Memphis in May festival season.

Tags: , ,

Friday, April 19, 2019

McKesson to Pay $1.6M to Correct Pay, Benefits Infractions

Posted By on Fri, Apr 19, 2019 at 10:06 AM

  • McKesson Corp./Facebook

A drug distributor with facilities in Memphis will pay more than $1 million to employees after the company discovered it was not paying the mandated prevailing wage and reported itself to federal authorities, according to the U.S. Department of Labor

McKesson Specialty Distribution, a California-based distributor for a federally funded children’s vaccine program, discovered it was not paying employees the prevailing wage rates mandated by federal law. As wage rates were off, overtime rates were off, too. The company also failed to pay the required fringe benefits to employees working on the federal contract.

McKesson will pay more than $1.6 million in back wages and fringe benefits to 515 employees. The company contacted the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division after it discovered the issue.
“McKesson Specialty Distribution made every effort to correct violations once they identified their errors,” said Wage and Hour Division District Director Nettie Lewis, based in Nashville. “The U.S. Department of Labor encourages all employers to review their pay practices and contact the Wage and Hour Division for compliance assistance.”

Incorrect pay was given to employees at McKesson’s facilities in Aurora, Colorado, La Vergne, Tennessee, and Memphis.

Tags: , , , ,

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Lawmakers Hit, Missed, Delayed Bills on Open Government This Year

Posted By on Thu, Apr 18, 2019 at 2:19 PM


Several bills before the Tennessee General Assembly were aimed at government transparency this year. Some hit. Some missed. One was sent out for some of that famous “summer study.”

All of this information comes from the Tennessee Coalition for Open Government (TCOG), a group that (you guessed it) advocates for government transparency here. A recent roundup of bills found moves on “harassing” records requesters, economic development deals, and 911 calls.


A bill was delayed this year that would have stopped records requesters from making further requests if a judge found the requests made a records custodian “be seriously abused, intimidated, threatened, or harassed.”

The bills' sponsors, Rep. William Lamberth (R-Portland) and Sen. Ferrell Haile (R-Gallatin) said the bill was filed at the request of city of Gallatin. Officials there said they’d been overwhelmed by requests from one requester.

An amendment to the bill gave a pass to journalists as requests for the purposes of broadcasting, publishing, or distributing information to others could not constitute harassment.

The sponsors delayed the bill until 2020.

No Deal (Information)

Economic development trumps transparency in Tennessee, according to a report in MuckRock.

Lawmakers shot down a bill that would have made public more information about government-led economic development deals.

From the story written by Kent Hoover:

“Under current law, economic development officials disclose information about grants awarded to companies who open corporate headquarters, manufacturing plants, data centers, or select other facilities in the state.

But they don’t disclose who gets the millions of dollars in tax credits the state offers these companies, nor what the state gets in return for these investments in terms of new jobs and capital expenditures. Tax information about specific companies is confidential under state law.”

A bill would have made public what companies got tax breaks, where they are located, how many jobs they create, and how much money they spend on machinery and other capital investments.

The bill was spurred by Gov. Bill Lee’s call for more transparency in government, according to the story. But it met push back from economic development officials who said the bills would make Tennessee less competitive for deals.


Lawmakers wanted to make 911 calls and transmission confidential, but the bill was pulled as the sponsor wanted more time to study the issue over the issue.

The bill would have made calls open only to law enforcement, courts, and other governmental agencies.

The Tennessee Press Association and Tennessee Association of Broadcasters lobbied against the bill, pointing out that access to 911 calls have led to numerous news stories uncovering problems within the 911 system.

Tags: , , , ,

Memphis Doctors, Nurses Charged With Illegally Distributing Opioids

Posted By on Thu, Apr 18, 2019 at 12:36 PM


Five Memphis medical professionals were indicted Thursday for illegally distributing opioid prescriptions to patients — in one case in return for sexual favors.

The five Memphis professionals were indicted along with 11 others from Jackson, Tennessee, who were arrested in a Wednesday sweep coordinated by U.S. Attorneys and the Department of Justice’s Appalachian Regional Prescription Opioid Strike Force (ARPO).

D. Michael Dunavant, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Tennessee, said the 16 defendants together allegedly distributed more than 350,000 prescriptions for controlled substances, equalling about 32 million pills.

“Opioid misuse and abuse is an insidious epidemic, created in large part by the over-prescribing of potent opioids nationwide, and unfortunately, Tennessee is at the center,” Dunavant said. “ We will not stand by and allow the harmful and oftentimes deadly practice of over-prescribing highly addictive drugs to continue unchecked.

“Along with our partners, the U.S. Attorney’s Office will pursue medical personnel who misuse their positions of trust to blatantly disregard and endanger others’ very lives for their own financial gain.”

Through “good old-fashioned police work,” undercover efforts, and data analytics, Dunavant said the ARPO Strike Force was able to identify medical professionals in West Tennessee prescribing excessive amounts of narcotics.

Defendant Richard Farmer, a Memphis psychiatrist, allegedly issued controlled substances at his clinic here without a medical diagnosis and sometimes in return for sexual favors. Farmer is also accused of providing these substances to pregnant women.

Two more local doctors, Michael Hellman and Thomas Hughes, were also taken into custody and indicted Wednesday. Hellman is accused of prescribing large amounts of promethazine with codeine, a Schedule V controlled substance, without doing medical examinations.

Hellman gave these substances to confidential informants on multiple occasions, according to court documents.

Hughes, an endocrinologist, is accused of fraudulently dispensing a Schedule III substance for testosterone to himself.

James Litton, a former nurse practitioner, is charged with conspiracy to distribute and dispense controlled substances, as well as healthcare fraud.

Finally, Kathryn Russell, a registered nurse here, allegedly prescribed opioids and other drug cocktails to drug-seekers with no legitimate medical purposes. Court documents also indicate that Russell might have been under the influence of drugs while working.

If found guilty, all of the defendants, with exclusion of Hughes, face up to 20 years imprisonment and a fine of up to $1 million. Hughes, faces up to four years of imprisonment and a fine of up to $250,000 for dispensing substances to himself. Law enforcement will look to link each of the 16 individuals to specific cases of opioid overdoses, Dunavant said.

“It is clear that these defendants charged in this ARPO Strike Force initiative has contributed to and caused much harm, addiction, pain, injury, and perhaps even death here in West Tennessee,” Dunavant said. “These physicians are nothing more than white-coated drug dealers with prescription pads. And if these licensed medical professionals are going to act like drug dealers, we’re going to treat them like drugs dealers.”

Dunavant added that he “had no problem signing the 16 indictments,” and that there “will be more to come.”

The ARPO Strike Force, formed in October, is a joint law-enforcement effort by the FBI, DEA, several U.S. Attorneys’ Offices, and others. The mission of the strike force is to identify and investigate health care fraud involving the illegal distribution of opioids

According to the Centers for Disease Control, 130 Americans die every day from opioid overdose.

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Kayak, Paddle Board Rentals Coming to River Garden Park

Posted By on Wed, Apr 17, 2019 at 3:31 PM


Kayaks and stand-up paddle boards will be available to rent at the River Garden Park beginning Saturday, May 4th.

The Memphis River Parks Partnership (MRPP), in partnership with Kayak Memphis, is launching the rental program as a way to help Memphians connect with the river.

“Our job is to give as many Memphians as possible the opportunity to reconnect with their river,” George Abbott, director of external affairs for the MRPP. “Kayaking in the harbor or enjoying Mud Island Park is one of many ways that all can come to the river, celebrate 200 years of Memphis and look forward to what’s to come. Grab a friend and come to the river today!”

The equipment will be available to rent every day at the Fourth Cup coffee kiosk in the River Garden from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m.

Kayak and paddle board rentals will be available at the River Garden Park near Mud Island. - MRPP
  • MRPP
  • Kayak and paddle board rentals will be available at the River Garden Park near Mud Island.

Kayaks and paddle boards will cost $20 for the first hour. A two-person kayak will cost $30 an hour. For each option, every additional hour would be $10.

On opening day, rentals will be discounted at $20 per two hours. 

To help those unfamiliar with kayaking, MRPP and Kayak Memphis staff will offer a free kayaking orientation each Saturday in May at 2 p.m. The orientation will demonstrate the best practices for first-time kayakers.

Kayakers can paddle across the harbor to dock at Mud Island Park or travel north on the harbor for about three miles.

Tags: , , ,

Gannett: MNG Trying to "Derail Our Progress"

Posted By on Wed, Apr 17, 2019 at 1:04 PM


Gannett Co., owner of The Commercial Appeal, urged its shareholders Wednesday to vote for its slate of board candidates to stave off a hostile takeover from rival media company, MNG Enterprises.

MNG is backed by the Alden Global Capital hedge fund and is also known as Digital First Media. MNG recently sent Gannett an unsolicited offer to buy the company for more than $1 billion. Gannett board members rejected the offer.

MNG later offered up a slate of candidates to run for Gannett’s board, a move to take control of the company and, apparently, force the sale of the company to MNG.

The final vote on those candidates is slated for Gannett’s annual shareholder meeting on May 16th. On Wednesday, Gannett sent a letter to shareholders touting the experience and expertise of its nominees.

Gannett criticized MNG’s slate. It said MNG is “attempting to derail our progress and take control of Gannett.”

“In contrast to Gannett’s eight independent nominees, all of MNG’s nominees have irreconcilable conflicts of interest given their close affiliations with MNG and/or Alden – and in some cases their fiduciary duties to MNG and Alden,” reads the letter.

Touting its own slate, Gannett pointed to its board's actions to build a “best-in-class digital marketing solutions organization and local-to-national news network that have driven growth in digital subscribers, audience engagement, and advertising and marketing services revenues.”

Here are some of the numbers Gannett listed as signs of its growth:

• Growing digital subscribers by 46 percent, bringing total paid digital-only subscribers to over 500,000.

• Growing ReachLocal revenues by 15 percent.

• Growing national digital advertising revenue by 19 percent and transforming USA Today’s advertising revenue to be 75 percent digital.

Tags: , , ,

Attorney Tied to King Assassination Conspiracy Trial Disciplined

Posted By on Wed, Apr 17, 2019 at 12:17 PM

Garrison - WREG
  • WREG
  • Garrison

A Memphis attorney who once represented a man who claimed a role in a conspiracy to assasniate Martin Luther King Jr., was disciplined recently for giving financial assistance to clients.

Lewis K. Garrison received a formal censure Wednesday by the Tennessee Supreme Court’s Board of Professional Responsibility. That public rebuke came after Garrison gave a client money to rent a car and pay for rent.

Garrison represented the client in a personal injury claim after an auto accident. The money he gave the client was an advance from a settlement, according to the board. A petition was filed against Garrison in June 2017.

“Mr. Garrison had been disciplined on four prior occasions for improperly providing financial assistance to clients,” reads a statement from the board.

The censure is a public rebuke of the actions and a warning to Tennessee’s attorneys. But it does not affect attorneys’ ability to practice law in the state.

For a time, Garrison represented a Memphis man, Loyd Jowers, who said in interviews and in court that he hired a man to assassinate King. Garrison represented Jowers through a trial in which Jowers was declared liable in King’s death.

Later, Garrison represented Jamal Woods, a University of Mississippi freshman whose truck was vandalized in a crime considered to be racially motivated. Garrison represented the Woods and his family at the request of the Memphis Chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Garrison said at the time.

Most Commented On

© 1996-2019

Contemporary Media
460 Tennessee Street, 2nd Floor | Memphis, TN 38103
Visit our other sites: Memphis Magazine | Memphis Parent | Inside Memphis Business
Powered by Foundation