City Reporter 

City Reporter

Settling Up

Police officer hopes to get pay corrected.

By Janel Davis

After 15 years of meting out justice as a Memphis police officer, Cham Payne is seeking restitution for a promotion denied him in 1988.

Payne was one of 200 patrol officers who took a sergeant promotion test that year. According to test results, Officer Payne's scores left him ranked number 131. The officer ranked 132 was promoted and is now a lieutenant. Payne was passed over and denied promotion.

A review of the test scores revealed that five officers' tests were incorrectly graded, making them ineligible for promotion. Four of the officers filed a successful lawsuit against the city in 1992 and were made sergeant. Payne, who did not know about the incorrect scores, was not included in the lawsuit.

Ten years later, Payne became aware of the incorrect scores when his name was mentioned in other lawsuits filed by officers against the city of Memphis.

"I just want what's due to me," said Payne. "I've served the city for 29 years and I think I'm owed that."

To get his promotion reinstated, Payne contacted city council member Barbara Swearingen Holt, who said the situation could be corrected by city attorney Robert Spence. Holt has declined comment, and repeated attempts to contact Spence were unsuccessful.

Payne's attempts at restitution may be futile. A one-year statute of limitations on filing lawsuits has long passed, and the police and city administration has changed. Judge Jerome Turner, who tried a 1999 discrimination case, has since died. Still, Payne has support from others.

"If the city knew it was wrong, it was incumbent on them to do what was right," said police union president Samuel Williams. "I think it's a shame that the man and his family have been cheated for so many years."

Court documents and correspondence between Payne and attorney David Sullivan from October 2000 show that the city was aware of the mistake. Sullivan, who was attorney for the four suing officers, said, "Unquestionably, the city knew in May 1992 that your promotion test had been misgraded."

Next June will be Payne's 30th year as a Memphis police officer. With that milestone comes the ranking of captain, 12 years after he would have been eligible for the position. During this period, Payne estimates he has lost $100,000 in pay.

Running Out of Time

Board to hear another appeal from Workman.

By Mary Cashiola

The same parole board that voted unanimously against clemency for death-row inmate Philip Workman in 2001 will likely hear his appeal again this September, much to the dismay of his supporters.

Citing new evidence, attorneys for Workman asked Governor Phil Bredesen earlier this month to commute Workman's sentence. But after Bredesen referred the matter back to the Tennessee Board of Probation and Parole, Workman's post-conviction defender asked the governor's office to appoint a temporary board to hear the case.

"Only one member of the board has changed since then," said Don Dawson of the post-conviction defender's office, "but it's the same chairman. It would certainly look a little foolish if they came out with a different determination [from the last hearing]."

Workman was sentenced to death in 1982 for killing Memphis police officer Lt. Ronald Oliver during a local robbery. Because of the earlier hearing's outcome, as well as Work-man's lawsuit -- currently on appeal in federal court -- against five of the six board members, Workman's attorneys don't expect fair hearing. "Last time, it was a circus," said Dawson. "It was not intended to reach any degree of fact finding. It was intended to support the governor in not granting clemency."

The hearing's outcome is nonbinding and intended as a recommendation to the governor. Lydia Lenker, Bredesen's press secretary, said that the governor has sent Workman's request to the Board of Probation and Parole, but the governor "will not only review the recommendation but how the board reached its decision."

Monday, district attorney William Gibbons urged Bredesen to deny Workman's clemency request. Randy Tatel, executive director of the Tennessee Coalition to Abolish State Killing, said it's ludicrous that a government board that is being sued by someone is going to be able to give that person a fair hearing.

"If there is a clemency hearing, it needs to be before an entirely different group of people," he said. "Almost any other alternative would be more palatable than this one."

Workman's hearing is set for September 8th and his execution for September 24th.

Wolf Hunt

Conservancy director takes new post.

By Bianca Phillips

Larry Smith, executive director of the Wolf River Conservancy (WRC), will step down at the end of the week to take on a new role as director of the Shelby County Environmental Improvement Commission.

Smith helped found the WRC in 1985 as an advocacy group to protect the Wolf River and its environs. In 1996, he was named the group's first full-time executive director. The group is currently reviewing rÇsumÇs to fill the position.

"We're looking forward to our new leadership, but it will be impossible to duplicate Larry's specific set of talents and expertise," said Gary Bridgman, WRC president. "He has a lot of expertise on the science of river conservation, and he's taught thousands of children about the environment. He's not just a policy wonk who knows how to go out and measure water quality from time to time."

In his new position, Smith will be responsible for developing and coordinating elementary-school environmental education as well as managing industrial and consumer recycling programs, storm-water run-off awareness, and litter-control programs.

Bridgman contends that although Smith will no longer be leading the WRC, he has little doubt that he will continue to support the group's work.

"Larry can become a former executive director, but he can't become a former co-founder," he said.

Answers about the Audit

Consultant defends cost study of city school system.

By Mary Cashiola

MGT of America, the firm that performed the overall audit of the city schools last year, said recently that the district did not participate in a "critical step" in the audit, resulting in only "half of the total picture" for district staff.

The report, which identified $114 million in five-year cost savings for the district, has been at the center of controversy since it came out because of factual errors and debatable cost savings. Partners in Public Education (PIPE) said it would withhold funds from the district until at least some of the recommendations were implemented. And Superintendent Johnnie Watson, fighting the yearly budget crunch, criticized the report's cost-savings projections as being "misleading and inaccurate" in a letter to MGT earlier this month.

But in an August 12th letter, MGT senior partner Linda Recio responded that the district did not want to go through the lengthy technical review process --which can last weeks, even months -- the consulting group has used for its other clients.

"MGT intended to submit a draft report to you and your staff that would include all findings and recommendations so that any factual errors, misinterpretations, omissions, or duplications could be easily identified," Recio wrote. "In this study, however, Memphis City Schools chose not to participate in a full technical review of the draft report."

Watson's letter blasted the company's recommendations to:

1) save $69 million by converting to a multitrack calendar and building fewer schools (the savings came from four schools already removed from the list of schools to be built);

2) establish an Enterprise Fund from the Nutrition Services Fund (which is not allowed by state regulations);

3) save $11 million by consolidating small class sizes (85 percent of the classes cited are either special education, Title One, or alternative school classes whose sizes are mandated).

According to Recio's letter, MGT usually presents an initial draft of its report to the districts. The administration then takes time to review all the information. For the Memphis report, however, MGT was asked to delete any recommendations, fiscal impact, and rationale from the draft, and the school board executive staff reviewed it over a six-hour closed-door meeting.

"This resulted in a draft report that, at its worst, was impossible for staff involved in the technical review to fully comprehend, and at its best, fell far short of communicating the intended information," she wrote.

Watson said Monday he specifically chose to go through the partial review process and it was a good decision. He didn't want to be accused of "teasing" the information or holding anything back. "You commission a report and then you share the information," he said.

Reached by phone earlier this week, Recio said the district was encouraged to go through the entire process, but her firm respected the client's judgment. "My letter speaks for itself," said Recio. "Our reputation is critical to us. That's why I took the time to look into this even though the project is long closed."

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