Down the Depraved Rabbit Hole in Memphis

After the city attempted to shake us down for $800 on the last set of MAS security camera videos, a FOIA request was filed for all documents pertaining to this fee.  These records were purchased yesterday and reveal some interesting information which I will break down in this post.

In response to one of the where-in-the-world-is-my-FOIA-request follow-ups, James Rogers, interim director at MAS, wrote to Lou Ann Muntz, in part:

On Apr 5, 2012, at 5:21 PM, <James.Rogers@memphistn.gov> wrote:

Hello Ms. Muntz,

The person responsible for providing your request will return on Monday, April 9, 2012.

We will forward the report to you promptly upon their return.

Then on April 9, an update from Mr. Rogers:

From:James.Rogers@memphistn.gov” <James.Rogers@memphistn.gov>
To: Lou Ann Muntz
Cc: Janet.Hooks@memphistn.gov; LaSonya.Hall@memphistn.gov; James.Perry@memphistn.gov
Sent: Mon, April 9, 2012 2:57:15 PM
Subject: RE: Response Requested (Ms. Muntz): FW: Records Request – Memphis Animal Shelter

Ms. Muntz,

The video footage you are requesting will be pulled on tomorrow.

Because of the security set up around our video system only one person has access.

I was not aware that only one person has access and informed you it could be pulled today.  My error.

I do not have access myself or else I would pull it.  Again, your patience is appreciated.

Best Regards

James M. Rogers

Administrator, MAS

On April 5, Mr. Rogers seemed to indicate there was one person responsible for pulling the footage.  On April 9, Mr. Rogers was apparently surprised to learn that only one person had access to the footage.  This is purportedly due to security reasons.

Going back to April 5, a response from James Perry in the city attorney’s office regarding the records request:

From:James.Perry@memphistn.gov” <James.Perry@memphistn.gov>
To: Lou Ann Muntz

Sent: Thu, April 5, 2012 4:00:55 PM

Subject:RE: Records Request – Memphis Animal Shelter

Ms. Muntz,

Please allow additional time for fulfillment of this public record request. I apologize, but the record’s officer in the MAS, Public Service Division is not at work today. The City had the 4th(yesterday) and has the 6th of April off. I believe the 5 day time was tolled on yesterday due to theoff day; however, I will make sure you will promptly receive your request as soon as the respective staff members from MAS are back at work. I will follow up with your request the first thing Monday morning. Have a wonderful weekend, and I apologize for any inconvenience.

Sincerely,

James

Like Mr. Rogers, Mr. Perry seems to indicate there is one person responsible for pulling the video footage – “the record’s officer in the MAS”.

A snippet from an e-mail from Chandell Ryan in the city attorney’s office, in which she explains why the February request cost $200 but the April one jumped to $800:

From: Chandell.Ryan@memphistn.gov [mailto:Chandell.Ryan@memphistn.gov]
Sent: Friday, April 20, 2012 5:31 PM

Subject: RE: Amended Records Request – Memphis Animal Shelter

Hello Ms. Muntz –

It is my understanding that the previous February 2012 invoice was based on the best estimate that could be made at the time considering the lack of familiarity with the new system. This estimate was approximately $400. This amount was discounted to $202.94 by the records custodian due to some confusion around the request.

“Confusion around the request” is presumably a reference to the city’s failure to provide the footage initially requested.  Of note, Ms. Ryan’s reference to a discount determined “by the records custodian”.

The MAS records clerk is Brandy Jackson.  In 2009, she earned $24,124.71 (page 208) and in 2011, her salary was $27,199.38.  Clearly Ms. Jackson, the sole person with access to the security camera footage, does not earn anything close to $50 an hour, which is the rate the city charges us to copy the footage when we file a FOIA request.

Via a FOIA request regarding the price increase on the videos, I found that the city appears to be contracting out the work of copying the discs.  Despite the purported security concerns, the city apparently takes the footage from the solitary individual with access at MAS and hands it over to a company called SAIC for copying.

SAIC holds numerous government contracts besides working for the city of Memphis.  The Project on Government Oversight (POGO) is a non-partisan, non-profit watchdog group and ranks SAIC as the 9th largest federal government contractor.  POGO reports 13 instances of misconduct involving SAIC government contracts since 1995.  The POGO website states that SAIC has paid more than $533 million to settle these claims which include cost/labor mischarge, fraud, double billing and defective pricing.

If Brandy Jackson is the only person able to access the security camera footage in the city of Memphis, who’s minding the store?  That is, why is no one actually monitoring the footage and how on earth can the city claim unmonitored video offers any measure of protection for the animals at the pound?

Is Brandy Jackson the person with authority to provide a discount on FOIA requests?

If the city truly is concerned with security, why is the footage being handed over for copying to a company with a history of fraud and double billing?

Why should citizens be forced to pay $50 an hour for services which are clearly sub-par – as in oops, we forgot to do half the job?

I’m confident there would be someone with no history of defrauding taxpayers who is willing to volunteer services to copy the DVDs.  Is the city of Memphis interested in considering such an offer?

Previous Post
Leave a comment

31 Comments

  1. They’re not even interested in free photography to help these poor creatures get adopted… why do you suppose they’d accept an offer for someone to handle such a high visibility / monetarily beneficial job? Oh, wait, sorry… I just smothered your sarcasm with my own.

    Reply
    • They won’t even let people volunteer to walk the dogs unless they join the sorority. Maybe the city can hire Blackwater to walk the dogs.

      Reply
  2. If I remember correct, we always were told the video footage from MAS is monitored by the Memphis Police Department.
    What happened?

    Reply
    • An excellent question Peter. You are remembering correctly. The city did say the footage was being monitored in the Real Time Crime Center and thus, there is no need for the public webcams. Apparently that was just another lie. Or maybe they’ll call it an OOPS.

      Reply
      • Lou Ann

         /  May 23, 2012

        A friend of mine toured the Real Time Crime Center recently and specifically asked if the MAS cameras were monitored. He was told “no.” And then a supervisor stepped in and said “well, uh, they are watched if we are alerted to something specific.”

        So — no, the cameras are not watched. NO ONE at the city level cares that animals are abused.

      • with that statement being said.. I hope it get back to the Mayor quickly

      • Jessica C

         /  May 28, 2012

        Ditto to these 2 posts

  3. db

     /  May 23, 2012

    To me, this is simply another indication of the incompetence, inefficiency and corruption of the entire city of Memphis. I’m not at all surprised that this is the way they do business. Memphis needs a thorough housecleaning and fresh start.
    Is there no one in this city government who has any ounce of integrity?

    Reply
  4. CristyF

     /  May 23, 2012

    I really don’t think it is appropriate for you to put Ms. Jackson’s name all over your post as you have, or her salary. These things are not anyone’s business. With a salary as low as she’s making, she is highly likely not in any position of authority and highly likely makes no decisions regarding how much to charge you for these FOIA requests. I know you are frustrated and angry at MAS and the government for the way they’ve treated you and the way they treat the animals in the shelter, but being spiteful toward an employee who in all likelyhood has little to do with the decisons being made will get you nowhere.

    (disclaimer: I have no affliations with MAS and do not even live in TN. I just don’t think its right to throw someone’s name around when you don’t even know if they have anything to do with anything.)

    Reply
    • Ms. Jackson is a public employee. Like all public employees, her salary information is available online for anyone to research. I did not publish it out of spite. I published it because it is integral in explaining the city’s claims that only one person has access to the footage and the city’s outrageous charge for copying the discs. If your opinion is that Ms. Jackson’s salary is low, that is your opinion alone. I make no such judgement.

      Reply
      • I don’t see where Ms. Jackson was in any way being treated spiteful. She happens to be a City employee and the key person regarding FOIA request to MAS. Her salary is relevant to the story at hand in that it shows that the City of Memphis is obviously overcharging the public with each FOIA request.

      • db

         /  May 23, 2012

        Exactly!

      • CristyF

         /  May 25, 2012

        I know her salary is low because that’s just a little more than I make working at a vet as a glorified janitor/kennel attendant, and I live with roommates in an apartment and just get by paycheck to paycheck. I live in NoVA where the cost of living is much higher than most of the country, so in TN that salary is probably actually liveable. Her salary information may be publicly available but using her name in this post just strikes me as wrong and unproductive.

      • OK, so your previous complaint was with the salary and now it’s with the name? Cristy, employees paid by our tax dollars are aware that things like their names, work e-mail addresses, and salaries are a matter of public record. They have no expectation of privacy with regard to many aspects surrounding their employment. That’s because we have an open government in this country. I’m sorry you disagree with my choice but I felt the information was germane to the discussion and not in any way wrong, as you say. There has been consistent precedent on this blog (and in every other form of media) for naming names of public employees.

  5. animalnewsinfo

     /  May 23, 2012

    Why do our governments have to be run so bad and so wasteful! So much time and money wasted. :(

    Reply
    • Well in this case, I wish it could be said that although there appears to be corruption and waste, at least they’re saving animals in the process. Unfortunately, all this depravity is occurring in conjunction with killing the animals the city should be saving.

      Reply
  6. Great reporting Shirley.. keep up the GREAT work.. and please keep the pressure on them.

    Reply
  7. Patti

     /  May 23, 2012

    I am surprised that Mr. Rogers admits he doesn’t have access to the footage. Isn’t he the guy in charge? Isn’t he suppose to know what is going on in the shelter???? No access means he hasn’t viewed any of the film footage which should be done on a regular basis. What a joke this place is. I hope persistence and pressure will someday change the way MAS is run. The shelter is a total disgrace for Memphis and very few seem to care about that. It is a reflection of the type of mind set the officials who run this city have and it certainly speaks loudly to others looking to move to a progressive city open to positive change. It isn’t here.

    Reply
  8. Karen F

     /  May 23, 2012

    Great reporting, Shirley.

    So, basically:

    — The city lied when it said the police department monitors the cameras.
    — The director of the shelter does not monitor the cameras and has no access.
    — The city overpays a questionable contractor to overcharge and screw up information requests.

    All this, in the service of needless killing.

    Why am I not surprised?

    Reply
    • At the March 14, 2012 MAS Advisory Board meeting, I took the following in my notes:
      *******
      They are purchasing additional hardware so the videotapes won’t rewrite at 10 days, but at the 30 days they were supposed to write over. That hardware isn’t there yet, so be aware if you are thinking of filing a FOIA that you’ll need the 10 day window.
      Mr. Rogers says he has 42 screens (monitors) that he reviews throughout the day.
      *********
      What are the 42 screens/monitors reviewed by Mr. Rogers throughout the day if not the cameras? Just wonderin’.

      Reply
      • Jody

         /  May 23, 2012

        Porn? Just kidding….maybe – ummm….geez, I guess that’s a really good question……I do remember him saying he monitors them daily. You know my mom used to tell us kids to always tell the truth because then you don’t have to remember what you said…..the truth always comes out!

      • Karen F

         /  May 23, 2012

        In rereading, I wonder if by “I do not have access,” Mr. Rogers meant that he monitors, but cannot pull or duplicate footage. If so, I apologize for my sloppy wording.

      • Yes, that could be. If he does monitor, he is the sole person doing so and given that he has to run the place too, I can’t see how that really qualifies as meaningful monitoring of the cameras.

  9. Jeanne

     /  May 23, 2012

    MAS has an annual budget of close to $3 million. They take in over 14,000 animals per year. They take out approx. 80% of those unfortunate animals in trash bags after “euthanizing” (euphemizing?) them. Most of the animals stay at the shelter for a very short time–only a few days. I’m guessing the majority of them don’t receive any extra care such as vetting–just food and water.
    And the standard of care at MAS is so low, sometimes they don’t even get that much.

    Animals are routinely killed for “space” at MAS, but there’s always enough room for what really counts–corruption, graft, kickbacks, theft, probably thousands of ingenious ways to spend those millions (less the cost of some cheap food and fatal plus and a neverending supply of trash bags).

    When the issue of privatizing MAS came up, guess what? It was gone in no time–pffft. Disappeared. Evaporated. You can read that story here–http://www.memphisflyer.com/memphis/public-option/Content?oid=3110920.

    Bottom line is–who benefits? Because it surely isn’t the 14,000 animals or the citizens of Memphis.

    Reply
    • db

       /  May 23, 2012

      So that’s over $200/animal and this is the best they can do?
      PATHETIC!!!

      Reply
  10. Well, all I can say to this rabbit-hole mentality is: OFF WITH THEIR HEADS!…and (it’s good to be the Queen :-))

    Reply
  11. LisaO

     /  May 23, 2012

    It seems to me you have enough information there to go to Memphis media, paper, and let it be know you are looking for an animal rights lawyer. They are clearly breaking laws. I lived in north Mississippi and I seem to recall the local stations enjoy breaking more corruption news as it is city wide, not just in the shelter.

    Reply
  12. LisaO

     /  May 23, 2012

    And there are quite a few animal rescue groups who I’m sure would support any improvement there in any way they could.

    Reply
  13. Jennifer

     /  May 23, 2012

    It sounds like all the city departments need to be audited/investigated!

    Reply
  14. ezbuddy

     /  August 6, 2012

    Over & over, information surfaces idenifying one screw up after another, and it never ceases. It’s so obvious that the cat’s & dog’s best interest are the last things on their mind, and it has been that way since MAS’ first began. Even the audit by Memphis Rotary didn’t help.

    Isn’t it about time the news media get informed with a full expose’ of information from everyone interested in the wellfare of all the voiceless dogs & cats that has needlessly lost their lives, and for those who will lose their lives there. The general population doesn’t know about the torture, death & wasted tax dollars there. They don’t do what they are supposed to do! Isn’t it about time?

    Reply

Speak!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 915 other followers

%d bloggers like this: