City Reporter 

Facing charges in Oklahoma, pharmacist opens shop, and other news.

Facing Charges in Oklahoma, Pharmacist Plans To Open Shop In Millington

Clayton Fuchs, former pharmacy manager of Oklahoma-based Mainstreet Pharmacy, will soon set up shop in Millington, Tennessee. There's nothing remarkable about that. But Fuchs is currently under investigation by the Oklahoma State Board of Pharmacy (OSBP) and faces potential charges by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA).

According to Cindy Hamilton, compliance officer of the OSBP, Fuchs is charged with selling drugs such as Valium over the Internet -- up to 800 prescriptions a day. This violates Oklahoma state law that dictates a mandatory face-to-face meeting between physician and client. According to an official complaint filed by Hamilton, one client used a false identity to buy a prescription, and other clients have obtained "controlled dangerous substances" despite being suicidal at the time.

In addition to the OSBP complaint, DEA officers obtained a search warrant for Fuchs' Oklahoma home. All charges are pending, and Fuchs will face the OSBP board this week where he could be handed a suspension, revocation of his license, and a $500 fine per count.

Dr. Ricky Joe Nelson, the physician allegedly authorizing the prescriptions, is currently under an emergency suspension pending a full hearing by the Oklahoma Medical Association.

According to Marilyn Elam, spokesperson for the Tennessee State Board of Pharmacy (TSBP), a potential conviction would not necessarily stop Fuchs from dispensing medicine in the Volunteer State. The state of Tennessee has no laws that enforce a face-to-face visit by client and physician. Says Elam, "Even if he is guilty in Oklahoma, he's still licensed in Tennessee."

Fuchs has already obtained a license in Tennessee, but Dr. Kendall Lynch, director of the TSBP, says that, should Fuchs be convicted of charges, "we'll go through the standard complaint process." The TSBP, he says, "has [the authority] in our statutes to summarily suspend the license. That is our option." -- Chris Przybyszewksi

One Call Stops Phone Solicitors

For everyone frustrated with telemarketers calling during dinner -- and that's probably just about everyone -- the Tennessee Regulatory Authority (TRA) can offer some relief.

Consumers may submit their names and telephone numbers to the TRA's "Do Not Call" program by either calling a toll-free number (1- 877-872-7030) or completing an online form. Though the program only officially began on August 1, 2000, some 550,000 Tennesseans have already registered for the service.

"We appear to have started a pretty popular program here," says program coordinator Ed Mimms. "We vigorously enforce it. After a consumer has reported a violation, we investigate it to make sure the consumer's name is on the list and then we send the violating company notice of the alleged violation. In most instances we get a response from the company after that."

Mimms says that a company can be fined up to $2,000 for not registering themselves as telemarketers with the TRA. The company may also be fined $2,000 for not responding to a violation notice and can be fined another $2,000 if they are proven to have called a registered consumer.

The statute defines a solicitor as a company or other organization that makes more than three calls a week to sell a product. Also, solicitors may only call between the hours of 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. and cannot knowingly block identifying information from appearing on a consumer's caller ID device.

While no fines have been levied against any violators to date, Mimms says his program has already investigated more than 500 cases of non- compliance.

"It's a lot like speed limits, though," says Mimms. "There's always going to be someone out there who is not aware of the regulations."

The statute provides a few exceptions for telemarketers. If a consumer has expressed permission for the company to call (i.e., signed up for a promotion, returned a postcard) the solicitor is exempt from the regulations. Also, if the consumer and the solicitor have a pre-existing business relationship that has been active within the past 12 months, the solicitor may call. --Rebekah Gleaves

Children's Museum To Expand

For almost 10 years, half an airplane -- minus wings and tail -- has stood silent guard in the front yard of the Children's Museum of Memphis. Soon, though, the gift plane from FedEx will be featured in an an interactive exhibit, part of a 16,000-square-foot expansion that will almost double the size of the facility at Central and Hollywood. Groundbreaking is March 23rd.

"The plane will be the centerpiece of the new expansion," says Randy McKeel, the museum's public relations manager. In fact, it will be housed inside a glass-walled display, and a spiral stairway will let kids explore the plane interior and cockpit.

The expansion process started about four years ago when the museum began meeting with community leaders, focus groups, and teachers.

"The teachers wanted more science-based exhibits," says McKeel, and the museum listened. "All the new exhibits are science- based."

Exhibits like "WaterWORKS!," "Growing Healthy," "Art Smart," and "Going Places" will feature a wide variety of hands-on activities, from weaving to "virtual" walking tours. "WaterWORKS!" in particular will give children a chance to get their hands wet.

"It will include a 25-foot model of the Mississippi and an aquarium of Mississippi River fish," says McKeel. "It's the museum's first venture into live animals."

Opened almost 11 years ago, the museum has changed out "permanent" exhibits but has not had any renovations since then. Money for the expansion comes from the museum's "It Takes Real Doh" capital campaign, which started in January 1999 and ended in December 2000. The campaign hoped to raise $6 million and ultimately exceeded its goal by $250,000. That sum will go into the museum's first endowment fund.

The new exhibits are scheduled to open spring 2002. -- Mary Cashiola

UrbanArt Hosts

Forum for Artists

The UrbanArt Commission is hosting its first diversity forum on Saturday, March 31st, from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the Hope and Healing Center on Union Avenue. The event will allow artists to meet with members of the commission, a division of the Memphis Arts Council that concerns itself with the creation and placement of public art, and learn about opportunities for becoming involved in arts projects. It will also allow the commission members to learn more about the concerns of local artists.

According to Elizabeth Alley, UrbanArt's project manager, the forum came about largely due to inquiries from Ephraim Urevbu, a longtime artist and gallery owner in the South Main Historic/Arts district. Urevbu was curious about the number of minority artists who had applied for consideration and who had afterwards been tapped to create public art.

"Let's just say that the number of minority artists accepted is equal to the number who applied," says Alley, without being more specific. She explains that the commission's new goal -- and the main reason for hosting this forum -- is to find out why UrbanArt isn't receiving a more diverse group of applicants.

"It could be a question of trust," Alley says, "or it could be that we just need to do a better job of communicating."

In addition to seeking diversity among applicants, UrbanArt is also hoping that this forum will lead to more diversified "selection committees," the groups that actually decide which artists will be selected for various public art projects. -- Chris Davis

Adoption "Scandal" -- Montagues Say Full Story Not Told

The Montague “estate”in Fayette County.
Andy and Michele Montague did not ask to be at the center of a citywide debate. They say they've only tried to do what was best for their former foster son, Juan Romo. Now, however, the Montagues say they are embarrassed to be seen in their Oakland community because of the way they were portrayed in The Commercial Appeal.

Recently the daily newspaper published several news stories, an editorial, a column, and many letters to the editor about the Montagues' experiences with the Tennessee Department of Children's Services (DCS). In the accounts, the Montagues were repeatedly described as "well-off," and their home said to be an "estate." The Montagues feel that these descriptions led the public to believe that they were wealthy and were trying to use money to take Juan from his biological mother, an illegal immigrant with no means of support and five other children.

"I haven't just been burned, I've been fried," says Michele Montague, speaking of her family's experience.

Reporter Shirley Downing, who wrote the stories, told the Flyer that company policy prevented her from giving comments to other members of the media. Instead she referred the Flyer to city editor Charles Bernsen. When asked if he believes The Commercial Appeal fairly and accurately portrayed all the parties involved, Bernsen responded, "That's a silly question to ask a city editor. We have no comment on the stories we run in the paper."

The public controversy began last week when the CA wrote a story referring to the struggle Norma Rodriguez, Juan's mother, was facing trying to get her children back. The Montague family was described as "well-to-do" and their home said to be an "estate-size home on a 250-acre farm" -- both statements the Montagues say are incorrect. In reality, according to the Fayette County Tax Assessor's office, they live in a 2,489-square-foot house on a one-acre lot.

Andy and Michele Montague share their three-bedroom, two-bathroom home with their own four children, and for half of Juan's life they shared it with him as well. Furthermore, the home doesn't really belong to the Montagues; it doubles as a model home for Andy, a developer, to show to prospective buyers.

"Put yourself in our shoes," says Michele Montague. "What would you do if you had a child for 11 and a half months, you voiced your concerns, you called [DCS], sent e-mails and letters, and nothing was done? We were concerned. We definitely didn't want to go get an attorney and pay all this money. We definitely don't have it. We have four kids in private school, we're starting a new business, we can't afford this. But we were at our wit's end. We didn't know what else to do."

However, the story quickly became one of a wealthy white family trying to buy the baby of an illegal immigrant. The Montagues contend that nothing could be further from the truth.

"I feel bad for saying this, but Andy and I didn't want to adopt Juan," says Michele. "I have four children of my own. We love Juan and we want to make sure he's safe, but we never had any intentions of adopting."

The petition for temporary custody that the Montagues filed was not to take custody from Norma Rodriguez but to take custody from the state. The Montagues filed the petition after receiving notice from DCS that Juan was to BE moved to another foster home. They did not understand why DCS would want to move Juan into a new foster family. The CA accurately reported that the Montagues had filed only a petition for custody; but the Montagues feel the stories still gave the impression that they were trying to take custody of Juan from Rodriguez.

On March 9th, the daily ran an editorial saying that "no evidence has surfaced publicly that would justify separating Juan and his mother." However, an affidavit of Juan's treating physician, on file with the Montagues' petition, says that when Juan was first removed from Norma Rodriguez' home he suffered from "1) Reactive Air Disease, 2) Bronchitis, 3) Development Delay, 4) History of Frequent Otitis Media [inner ear infection]." While not enough to warrant termination of Norma's parental rights, the potential for abuse and neglect became clear when considered with other factors: the Montagues' reports that Juan repeatedly returned from his visits with his mother infested with head lice, Norma Rodriguez' admission that Juan sleeps in a bed with her and her boyfriend, and the sworn testimonies of witnesses who say they have seen activity consistent with drug trafficking in Norma Rodriguez' home.

On March 9th, the CA ran a guest column by Richard Wexler, a Washington, D.C., expert on child-care reform. Throughout his column he continually refers to the Montagues as "well-to-do," "richer," having "middle-class entitlement" and "marshaled the network of friends and associates that goes with money and power." Absent in Wexler's column, and in most of the stories on the issue, was the fact that Rodriguez herself surrendered her children to DCS last year because she could not care for them.

The CA mentioned that the Montagues offered to let Rodriguez and Juan's siblings live in a farmhouse owned by Andy Montague's parents rent-free, but Norma refused because they would not allow her boyfriend to move in with her. There was no mention in the paper of the approximately $2,000 the Montagues gave or spent on Norma because she told them that she lacked the money for necessities, like groceries. The CA also did not mention that the Montagues, though not required to do so, usually drove Juan from their home in Oakland to Norma's home on Lamar so that Juan could visit his mother, who did not have transportation.

And now that Norma Rodriguez could potentially face deportation, The Commercial Appeal has not reported that the Montagues have offered to sponsor her so that she and her family can remain in the country legally.

"I would just love to snap my fingers and have all of this go away," says Michele Montague. "Maybe we cared too much, I don't know. I do know that this is a 2-year-old who cannot speak for himself. Who else is going to take care of him?" -- Rebekah Gleaves

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