Memphis City and the ACLU have, in the last week, released a huge trove of documents relating to the A-list lawsuit.
The UK-based The Guardian today covered the story, as has Esquire magazine and Citylab. Our local crowdsourcers have only begun to dig in the paperwork, and we are certain that the material will fuel our researches for years to come, but a few vital facts have emerged.
Geofeedia replacement social media “collator” NC4.
Probably one of the most significant finding to date is the identification of the Geofeedia replacement. The ACLU had been after this product as the social media spy tool of choice until the social media powerhouses cut off its data feed in October 2016. The new replacement is NC4, which was revealed in the new a-list documents, we think for the first time. All we can find is this PRnewswire piece which was probably paid for by NC4.com as part of its PR aimed at local LE departments.
This alone means that we are already seeing dividends from the ACLU case, before it is even heard.
Activist counter-intel successes.
Almost as interesting, which squares with what we already knew from our previous blog about CCC’s counter-intel operations, is the fact that LE responses have been repeatedly been triggered by fake news planted by people close to CCC. Our blog uses Open Record information to document how fake news about an attempt on the Bridge escalated all the way to the top of State LE and to FBI. That incident appears to have escalated police response to protests, including the arrest of protesters on April 3rd by a snatch squad from the MPD Multi-Agency Gang Unit’s OCU (Organized Crime Unit). It was a pre-emption intended to abort a 6:30 bogus Bridge occupation. The OCU is all over the ACLU documents. The take-away from this is that information gleaned by MPD and TBI’s CIU from social media is even less reliable than the average social media fake news.
LE bites on fake intel, misses the real information.
Also revealed, something we also suspected from our blog: Not only is State LE liable to fly off the handle and escalate fake news to the top levels of local, State and Federal LE, but they have been doing a very poor job of eliciting the real intel they seek.
Our CCC story reveals that the unknown operational security measures CCC used to safely transmit the real April 3rd itinerary are working. The unadvertised first stop of the Rolling Block Party arrived at FedEx to find no police presence, and the police made the scene in a time span appropriate to a 911 dispatch. So, not only is the police intel gathering catching all the fake news, it is missing the real intel they are after.
Here’s the Daily Kos‘ Gary Moore on the April 3 arrests.
MPD gets vindictive from intel defeat.
Frustration at being totally confounded by this poorly financed, rag-tag group of activists may have led to Keedran Frankin‘s July 6th arrest, and the planting of evidence in his car. This arrest was allegedly in a traffic stop done by OCU, which is not exactly their beat.
Limitations of MPD’s social media spying.
The strange story of “Bob Smith’s” bogus social media account is also revealed. We had feared that MPD’s Real Time Crime Center had the ability to penetrate the end-to-end encryption used by Facebook. However, it appears that MPD was only able to view private data on Facebook to which their fake account, Bob Smith, had ‘friended’ itself. All the information in the earliest document released by the city suggests that only activists friended by Bob Smith could be accessed by MPD. In particular, Facebook Private Messages and secret groups which did not include Bob Smith were safe from spying.
We say this with a caveat: private Facebook stuff could be revealed via NSA decryption or by the issuance of a FICA court order, which does not require much in the way of probable cause. As far as I know, CCC used different means to organize the Rolling Block Party, and I don’t want to know what it was. CCC keeps ahead of LE spying by eternal vigilance and strict operational security.
I was personally targeted by Bob Smith and the information used to smear me, as searches for “Fergus” and “Nolan” separately will reveal. In particular, my arrest on Memorial Day 2016 was presented to be because I advocated lawbreaking due to entrapment by Bob Smith as a deliberate act by MPD, which I know to be untrue. In addition, the story of my uncovering the A-list which I documented in this first party eye witness account is smeared by a bogus allegation of a fanciful meeting I was supposed to have with a County employee, who is standing for election this week. I promised I would not out this person until after the election, but this MPD cover story did not surface until after my A-list story needed to be discredited, and is at variance with my contemporary eye witness account. My story did not change. Theirs did.
In other news: Office of Homeland Security identified.
At MemphisTruth.org, we have been looking for the MPD’s Office of Homeland Security. It turns out to be two officers, Sergeant Tim Reynolds, promoted this April but identified in the documents as Detective, Sergeant and Lieutenant, and as Police Officer II in the current City salaries list. Also Sgt. Edwin Cornwell.
The Office of Homeland Security is part of MPD Special Operations, housed in the Special Operations division, which also houses the Real Time Crime Center which does most of MPD’s electronic spookery.
This is a witness account, so I am putting it in the first person. At the City Council meeting on July 24th 2018, I made a 2-minute speech at City Council, in which I referred to a vote in September 2017 in which Boyd did not recuse himself. Berlin Boyd responded with a remarkable diatribe, in which he said “…someone’s going to get hurt and it won’t be me.”
I wrote a blog in July, 1544 Madison: An Open Letter to Berlin Boyd, which was part of a series of blogs on Boyd. The blog followed Boyd’s interactions with enterprises owned by Bill Orgel, including almost $40K in political contributions, a series of votes on the Land Use Control Board in which Boyd voted for permits for Orgel cell towers and a number of grants to Orgel developments, on which Boyd voted on City Council. I provided some open record requests at the EDGE board and DMC proving eleven meetings between Boyd and EDGE officials, Boyd’s partnership with Bill Orgel’s family firm and other Orgel lieutenants, and the issuance of a $6.2M PILOT to the partnership.
Berlin Boyd called me out.
At the previous Council meeting on July 10th, Boyd had an interaction with a speaker from the public, Aaron Fowles. In this extract from the official video, at minute 9:56, Boyd talks about Theryn Bond’s ejection from the chamber at the previous meeting and continues “… People who put lies out and people get contracts and go to Nashville and set up TDZ’s. Are you serious. And you sit there and lie and hold your camera…”. I was holding a camera at the time.
I had written “Berlin Boyd applied to the State of Tennessee to expand the Tourism Development Zone northwards.”, in relation to the Mud Island TDZ. In the linked article in the Memphis Daily News: “Memphis City Councilman Berlin Boyd said that he’s waiting to hear back from the state of Tennessee about an expansion of Mud Island’s tourism development zone to encompass the Pinch District.
Mystery car noted on Facebook.
On July 10th, someone posted about seeing a vehicle with Mississippi plates and a “B BOYD” vanity tag parked in front of City Hall. A comment was made that it might be Berlin Boyd’s car and I said it might have been former council member Bill Boyd.
On the 24th, I posted on MRYE for people to keep an eye out for this car and get a photo. I did not mention Berlin Boyd, just quoted the vanity plate.
What Happened at City Hall
Here’s an excerpt from the 2-minute speeches on 7/24/2018, taken from the official video. As I felt that Boyd had directly addressed me on the 10th, I came to Council and spoke.
Thanks to Councilwoman Janis Fullilove
I started out by thanking Councilwoman Fullilove, who had said, “Last fall, I deferred to some of my colleagues on the City Council who expressed concern about IRV. I have rethought my position. The people have already voted for this. We ought to give it a try”. I added: thank you Councilwoman Fullilove, one honest council member”.
Correcting the Nashville misquote
Then I referred to Boyd’s statement from the previous meeting. Boyd said that I had said he went to Nashville, then gave the quote above from my blog: “Berlin Boyd applied to the State of Tennessee to expand the Tourism Development Zone northwards.” And then I quoted the original Daily News article which I had linked. I pointed out the misquote.
Conflict of Interest in September vote
Then I went on to my final point of the evening. 2/28/2017 1544 Madison Partners buys the Madison Avenue property. 9/5/2017: Berlin Boyd votes on City Council for a cell tower special use permit for Tower Assets Newco IX LLC, one of Bill Orgel’s cell tower ventures. This vote happened after the 1544 Madison property deal, so Orgel was a partner of Boyd at the time of this vote.
I was about to go on and ask why Boyd had not recused himself, when I got cut off.
Berlin Boyd lashes out
Berlin Boyd: What does this have to do with… Let me just say this. I am about to go on record to file a restraining order against you, because you are becoming excessive and stalkerish. You just lied two seconds ago when you said that I was driving a vehicle with Mississippi tags on it. I do not own a vehicle with Mississippi tags on it. **
Berlin Boyd: But I will go on record to put a restraining order against you, because someone’s going to get hurt and it won’t be me. I guarantee that. Have a nice day.
Me: So I’m going to get hurt, am I?
BB: Sir, you drive by my house and that’s inappropriate.
Me: I’ve never driven by your house.
BB: I’m not debating you sir.
Me: I’ve never been on your street.
BB: I have cameras at my house, sir, and your behavior is excessive. You’re stalking me and lying on me every chance you get. Sir, please have a seat.
Me: I’ve never lied about you.
BB: Set him out, get your facts straight, kick him out
** This is a reference to my request for people to photograph the “B BOYD” vanity tag. I never said he was driving the car.
I have never stalked Boyd, never been on his street, and I am not on Boyd’s security camera footage. He is a corrupt public figure and I have blogged about him. I have not lied about Berlin Boyd.
Boyd issued a physical threat in response to my fair comment.
Berlin Boyd lies a lot. He should release his security footage. I predict he won’t.
Berlin Boyd is rattled about my blog. There’s a smoking gun there.
Legal Fees Fundraiser.
Please donate to my fundraiser at fundly.com. I’m raising money to pay an attorney to get an order of protection against Berlin Boyd. (Updated 7/26/2018).
This Slate article about Dylann Roof, where he was quoted saying “You rape our women, and you’re taking over our country, and you have to go.” debunks the myth of Black on white violence.
Behind the myth of black rapists was an elemental fear of black autonomy, often expressed by white Southern leaders who unhesitatingly connected black political and economic power to sexual liaison with whites. “We of the South have never recognized the right of the Negro to govern white men, and we never will,” said Sen. Benjamin Tillman on the Senate floor in 1900. “We have never believed him to be equal to the white man, and we will not submit to his gratifying his lust on our wives and daughters without lynching him.”
We all know that during times of enslavement, the raping was being done by the slave owners. Ida B Wells and others debunked Jim Crow era allegations of Black rape against lynching victims. Genuine rapes of white women by Black men seem always to have been exceedingly rare or non-existent.
Nonetheless, this specter of Black violence against white people is still very much in existence. We see white politicians, like Jim Strickland, Kemp Conrad, Reid Hedgepeth, Bill Morrison and Worth Morgan harping on public safety, with coded references to the mythical danger posed to white voters by unrestrained and savage Black people.
Jim Strickland’s 2015 campaign.
Steven Reid, Jim Strickland’s 2015 campaign manager, wrote “How A Throwback Campaign Made History In Memphis”. The campaign did extensive polling and decided that Strickland’s Council public safety emphasis was the right strategy for the Mayoral campaign. They focused on the 70% of voters who were over 55 and used traditional media instead of electronic as that age group don’t use social media much. The article does not mention anything about encouraging racial vote splitting, which also helped Strickland greatly.
The article mentions some of the dog whistles in Strickland’s campaign, borrowed from his Council positions. “Strickland had long advocated for zero tolerance with violent criminals. And in the wake of a rash of juvenile crime in the city, including a high-profile attack on citizens at a Kroger store, Strickland had become critical of the mayor for failing to enforce curfew laws”. The linked article in Reid piece is a dead link. We substituted another similar media link. The campaign made a special effort to shore up white voters in the couple of weeks before the election.
The articles treat the public safety issue as a found phenomenon, failing to mention Strickland and his allies roles in stoking this fire, with help from the media.
Media Dog Whistle
The media, especially TV, have often been accused of dog whistling. This Commercial Appeal article which featured the third photo of the workers taking a break in the print version, was widely criticized for portraying negative racial stereotypes, by showing the Black youths taking a much needed hydration break, and by the selection of a quote from Mark Luttrell, one of the few white people in the article, using the loaded word “idleness” in the headline. CA Editor Mark Russell agreed that CA editorial policy was at fault in this instance, and the CA has since done a better job at avoiding racial coding.
This Channel 5 piece is typically coded, as was the Plaza Kroger piece we quoted in the Reid article.
The White Alliance on City Council.
Strickland had worked with members of the Caissa Seven in the 2015 council. The 2016 council is controlled by the Caissa Seven. Strickland is associated with Brian Stephens of Caissa Public Strategy, who had a prominent management role in Strickland’s Mayoral transition team. Philip Spinosa’s replacement, J Ford Canale, is expected to vote the Caissa Seven whip. He is closely associated with Strickland, Spinosa and Hedgepeth via the CBHS old boys network.
It is easy to see the Caissa Seven agreeing with “We of the South have never recognized the right of the Negro to govern white men, and we never will,” as per Sen. Benjamin Tillman. The Caissa Seven persuaded themselves that they are protecting Memphis from itself.
Council is gerrymandered to produce six white and seven Black councilors. This already under-represents Black voters by about 10%, and keeps the white delegation within one vote of control. By recruiting Berlin Boyd, they maintain a 7-6 vote lock. In addition, Joe Brown has always voted “law and order” with the white minority. Brown received a $5,000 donation from Memphis Police Association in 2015, and donated $500 in turn to Mike William’s (MPA President) mayoral campaign.
The Dog Whistles
Zero tolerance, both for violent crimes and in-school infractions. This falls heaviest on Black people. School disciplinary problems are escalated to the juvenile justice system.
juvenile crime is often a coded reference to crime by Black youths, including the example of the Kroger disturbance given by Stephen Reid above
curfew is disproportionally used on young Black people.
Memphis Shelby Crime Commission Youth Violence Plan (PDF). They are talking about Black youth violence and increased prison time.
The Case of CLERB
The current situation of CLERB is a well-documented history of how far Council members will go to protect the police force against transparency. In 2015, after a far-reaching campaign, Memphis United forced an ordinance on City Council to revitalize the long-moribund CLERB. The matter was eventually delayed until November 2015, when it was passed. Worth Morgan then introduced a new measure in 2016 to curtail CLERB’s subpoena powers.
Bill Boyd, proposed an amendment to reduce the CLERB budget on 6/16/2015
Kemp Conrad voted against the CLERB budget on 6/16/2015. He egged Berlin Boyd to ask for a November vote rather than an early approval of the CLERB ordinance on 8/4/2015. He also made vicious personal attacks on Memphis United’s Paul Garner and the pro-CLERB lobby from the council dais that day. He tried fear mongering, quoting an email from MPD Director Toney Armstrong saying that homicides would increase 20% if the ordinance is passed. (8/4/2015). Conrad also voted against the final CLERB ordinance on 11/3/2015.
Jim Strickland, on the basis of an Allan Wade opinion, produced a last minute amendment on the third reading of the CLERB ordinance, removing CLERB’s subpoena powers, 7/7/2015.
Berlin Boyd on 8/4/2015 asked for a four month delay in voting for the CLERB ordinance, after a phone call on the dais and calling MPD Director Toney Armstrong to the mic.
Reid Hedgepeth also voted both to delay CLERB on 8/4/2015 and against CLERB reactivation on 11/3/2015.
Also voting to delay CLERB on 8/4/2015 : Bill Morrison and Joe Brown.
In 2016, Worth Morgan introduced a measure to curtail CLERB’s limited subpoena powers, which passed on 8/9/2016. Voting for clipping CLERB’s wings: the Caissa Seven: Kemp Conrad, Reid Hedgepeth, Berlin Boyd, Bill Morrison, Worth Morgan, Philip Spinosa and Frank Colvett. Joe Brown also voted for.
Police directors Armstrong and Rallings and MPA president Williams also intervened in the CLERB dispute. After the August 2016 vote, Worth Morgan failed to attend every CLERB meeting. As he was the Council liaison on CLERB, this severed the direct connection between CLERB and the city, and introduced an additional obstacle for CLERB using its cumbersome subpoena process via Council.
The example of CLERB shows how the law and order faction on Council works closely with MPD to protect it from even the mild transparency that CLERB offered.
The voting patterns around the CLERB votes are typical of the other votes on Council involving police. The main exceptions were Berlin Boyd’s marijuana ordinance in August 2016 where Kemp Conrad was the lone nay vote in a generally popular measure, and in the negotiations around the 2017 budget when the police budget was marginally cut in sub-committee. The Caissa Seven seems to recognize that Berlin Boyd needs to play to his district and relaxes the whip on him occasionally.
MPD’s Institutional Interest
We have seen MPD steadfastly victimizing the Black population, from the early slave patrol days, through the 1866 Memphis Massacre, Reconstruction, the Jim Crow era, the Crump regime and the extraordinary measures taken to suppress the Civil Rights movement under Chandler. Even now, MPD is actively pursuing activists, many of whom are Black.
I have always assumed that current MPD racial profiling is part of their institutional DNA, and they are being racist because they have always been that way. There’s plenty of evidence for that.
But the dog whistle politics of the Caissa Seven and their predecessors coupled with the way the Caissa Seven protect and enrich the police adds another motive for police behavior. They are operating in their institutional self interest by enforcing the Caissa agenda. They are rewarded for enforcing racist policies.
The Wharton era pension debacle created a large pro-police movement, with Mike Williams as their leader. Facebook groups like “Just the Facts” are an example. The Caissa Seven and Strickland tapped into this movement.
Between 2008 and 2017, the MPD budget has grown by about a third ($60M), at a time when other City budgets were being cut to the bone. It is the biggest share of the City budget.
Mayor Strickland, with the Memphis Shelby Crime Commission, attracted private funding for police retention, and the administration has been emphasizing police training classes and police recruitment. Public safety employees were given additional wage increases in the 2017 budget.
The CLERB episodes gave the Caissa Seven another opportunity to show MPD that their interests are being looked after.
All this is not surprising. Machiavelli wrote in “The Prince” that rulers have to protect their security force, even when they do wrong. The Caissa Seven and Strickland need the police to protect their positions and the economic interests of their financial backers.
MPD has every reason to play along with the dog whistle politics. It enriches and protects them. They are actually being encouraged to double down on their repressive, racist history. It’s not a few bad apples. It’s the institution.
Dog whistle politics is a real thing. Its main function is to use traditional racist memes to make white voters afraid. The practitioners have also perverted community policing by using programs such as COP and neighborhood watches to recruit Black pastors and community activists to also gain police support in the Black community. Our recent post on the CCC’s misinformation campaign shows how MPD used a mailing list of supporters to get the word out.
It has been a successful strategy in preventing the 64% Black majority from controlling the levers of power. Or, if you like, keeping white minority control of the city.
Its consequence has been a protected, out of control police force which is motivated to profile the Black community, and the activist groups who are #woke to these issues.
Our CLERB archive addresses the problem that CLERB has not been posting their minutes and documents on-line. We created this partial archive to redress this problem. The lack of an archive makes CLERB’s transparency objective hard to achieve. Not being able to administer this essential function is also part of CLERB’s issues. In the two days since we published this piece, CLERB has published some letters and also corrected an indexing problem on the City site.
Our CLERB Prequel is a narrative of how CLERB got to be the way it is. It takes the story from Paul Garner’s arrest in 2013 through the most recent political change in summer of 2016.
This piece will refer to these sources as ARCHIVE with date or PREQUEL with date. Both are in date order.
In this post, the intention is to show that CLERB was deliberately engineered to be toothless, and how it was done. Identification of the faulty engineering suggests ways to fix CLERB. We create a list of the changes that CLERB members have asked for and show why these changes are necessary.
The Groups in Play
The police department actors were
Toney Armstrong, MPD Director in 2015, when the matter came to Council. Armstrong (PREQUEL 4/21/2015) and Mike Williams, Memphis Police Association (MPA) President are quoted in the Memphis Flyer as: “… Both Director Toney Armstrong and Memphis Police Association President Mike Williams took issue with the idea giving the board subpoena power, claiming that it could impact the officers’ Fifth Amendment rights …”. Toney Armstrong later lied (PREQUEL 8/2/2016) saying “My support for CLERB has not changed.” Armstrong is quoted by Kemp Conrad as the source of an email saying that homicides will increase 20% if the ordinance is passed. (PREQUEL 8/4/2015). Homicides did not increase 20% after CLERB.
MPA also said (PREQUEL 7/7/2015) that there were already enough controls in place at MPD.
Current Director Mike Rallings, who has stonewalled all recommendations of CLERB (ARCHIVE 5/10/2018) as per this letter from CLERB to Mayor Strickland.
The 2015 City Council group opposed to the revitalization of CLERB included:
Bill Boyd, who proposed an amendment to reduce the CLERB budget by half (PREQUEL 6/16/2015) and voted against the CLERB budget.
Kemp Conrad also voted against the CLERB budget (PREQUEL 6/16/2015). He egged Berlin Boyd to ask for a November rather than an early resumption of the CLERB ordinance (PREQUEL 8/4/2015). He also made vicious personal attacks on Paul Garner and the pro-CLERB lobby from the council dais. (PREQUEL 8/4/2015). He tried fear mongering, quoting an email from MPD Director Toney Armstrong saying that homicides will increase 20% if the ordinance is passed. (PREQUEL 8/4/2015). Conrad also voted against the final CLERB ordinance (PREQUEL 11/3/2015)
Jim Strickland, on the basis of an Allan Wade opinion, produced a last minute amendment on the third reading of the CLERB ordinance, removing CLERB’s subpoena powers. (PREQUEL 7/7/2015). Last minute amendments are often used to derail motions in Council.
Berlin Boyd (PREQUEL 8/4/2015) asked for a four month delay in voting for the CLERB ordinance
Reid Hedgepeth also voted both to delay CLERB (PREQUEL 8/4/2015) and (PREQUEL 11/3/2015).
Also voting to delay CLERB (PREQUEL 8/4/2015): Bill Morrison and Joe Brown.
The 2016 City Council group who altered CLERB’s subpoena powers include the group we know as the Caissa Seven: Kemp Conrad, Reid Hedgepeth, Berlin Boyd, Bill Morrison and newcomers Worth Morgan, Philip Spinosa and Frank Colvett. This group has voted as a bloc on all police issues except for Berlin Boyd’s marijuana ordinance in August 2016. Joe Brown, who had received $5,000 from the MPA (Memphis Police Association) PAC and who had passed on $500 of this to Mike Williams 2015 Mayoral campaign was very pro-police and anti-CLERB.
We had seen how Jim Strickland had introduced the idea that CLERB could not have subpoena power and tried to have this power removed on 7/7/2015. This cause was taken up in 2016 by new Council member Worth Morgan. Morgan had been Chair of the Council’s Public Safety and Homeland Security sub-committee since January, 2016, and was ex-officio the CLERB city liaison member.
(PREQUEL 7/5/2016 and 8/9/2016) Worth Morgan introduced a measure to remove CLERB’s limited subpoena powers. A furious debate ensued, with CLERB supporters again in the chamber. CLERB, through its Council liaison, would request Council to issue the subpoena, and the case would be heard as a Council meeting. This version of subpoena power was passed, with only Kemp Conrad voting against the compromise.
Worth Morgan’s attendance at CLERB meetings is recorded in ARCHIVE. He attended only the April and June 2016 meetings, and missed all 17 meetings subsequent to June 2016. This had the effect of making the cumbersome subpoena process even more so, due to the City Liaison’s role in the procedure. Morgan’s chronic absence from CLERB severed the only link to City Council.
What to do about CLERB?
The obvious move, to try and get City Council, to change the CLERB ordinance is a non-starter with the current City Council incumbents. Although Philip Spinosa has left Council, his hand-picked replacement, J Ford Canale, is likely to vote with the Caissas. Joe Brown is very anti-CLERB, so the votes are just not there. Maybe after 2019, especially if CLERB can be made an election issue.
CLERB could consider asking Council for a subpoena at the next available opportunity. It would be a good opportunity to test the process. The outcome may inform the voters.
Allan Wade was the originator of the “opinion” that the City has no right to delegate subpoena powers. It first surfaced on the record as a comment by Jim Strickland (PREQUEL 7/7/2015). Wade is known for providing dubious legal opinions as required by Council.
Attorney Bruce Kramer (ARCHIVE 7/14/2016) pointed out that Knoxville has a CLERB with direct subpoena powers. There is no mention of delegation of subpoena powers in the City Charter or statutes. This would suggest that the issue could be litigated.
CLERB binding recommendations.
During the 2016 discussion of CLERB at City Council, (PREQUEL 7/7/2015), in an assumption that goodwill would exist with all parties, CLERB recommendations were made non binding on MPD. As there has been no goodwill on the part of Director Rallings this might be revisited. On the face of it the votes are not there on Council to improve CLERB, but Rallings has so violated the intent of the 2015 CLERB discussion that the Council vote lock might be broken.
There are issues with CLERB administration. The failure of CLERB to get its minutes and meeting documents properly indexed on the City Online Meetings portal is inexplicable. The video from the regular City Hall meeting rooms seems to be automatically updated but the CLERB administrators would have to follow the same process to catalog meeting minutes and other documents that other City scribes use. If the City site admins are somehow blocking this process, that issue would need to be escalated.
The issue of personal information in complainant case notes is often cited. The Tennessee Open Records law is very clear that documents which contain certain personal information, such as health details, and some personally identifying information, must be redacted before publication.
The CLERB website is finally live. Normal practice for a website with periodic document downloads is to provide the administrator with a software tool and security access to upload new documents.
At the time of writing, there have been some improvements to the CLERB tab on the City meetings page and a new page has appeared on the CLERB site with eight documents. (ARCHIVE). These are new and welcome. But way not enough.
CLERB cannot meet its transparency objective until the clerical task of uploading all its documents, and keeping them current, is complete. We created our archive to serve as a source of documents and also to show CLERB how it is done. It is not persuasive to blame the City for these omissions. As yesterday’s new page as shown, CLERB do have control over their site and could have added documents anytime. Or paid $40 for a blog page and done it there. No excuses for lazy publication.
CLERB is authorized for one additional employee. CLERB could avail of an intern from the city. The Tennessee Law Society has offered to put CLERB on its books as a recipient of pro-bono legal help, but CLERB refused this offer. Lack of manpower is not an excuse.
In CLERB’s letter to the Mayor of 5/10/2018, the following solutions were offered.
“1) Director Rallings to be reasonable and at least meet us in the middle on our decisions (compromise),
2) A new police director who will work with us (CLERB)
3) A new ordinance that gives CLERB binding decision-making power, or
4) an amendment to the current ordinance, which gives appellate power to the mayor over the police director’s decisions”.
Make Recommendations for MPD policy change.
In (ARCHIVE 11/17/2016) John Marek pointed out the CLERB cannot change MPD P&P but can make recommendations for policy changes.
What specific recommendations to make? That’s a wonky subject. MPD’s P&P manual is voluminous. It would be a lifetime task to make it right. A few changes are suggested by the CLERB work product.
Premises Advisory / Hazard Location Policy
Reginald Johnson’s case (ARCHIVE 11/11/2016 and 3/9/2017) suggests a P&P change. After trying to hold MPD to account for investigating the death in 2014 of his son Samuel, and after his CLERB case was upheld, Mr Johnson’s house was flagged by MPD as a “hazard location” via a data construct called a “premises advisory”. After a large turnout of MPD cruisers to his house for a routine call, Mr Johnson, considering his beat-down and macing by police, was understandably intimidated. Mid South Peace and Justice took up his case and, in May 2018, Mr Johnson had a meeting with Director Rallings and other officers, in which he was told the premises advisory would be removed. The term “Hazard Location” or “Hazard List” was used by all commentators. The term “Premises Advisory” was first introduced by MPD brass during the May meeting with Mr. Johnson, who reported verbally on the meeting. MPD refused to create any record of this meeting.
MPD needs a policy which governs the use of premises advisory and/or hazard location designations. This should include criteria for creating this datum, notification of the subject, a review procedure, and a procedure for challenging use of this procedure. This P&P recommendation could be attached by CLERB to Mr. Johnson’s case as an addendum.
DR501: Attendance at Court.
This is a much-abused existing policy. It is in the P&P Manual, chapter 1 section 3, DR 501. (PDF). In his testimony to CLERB, (ARCHIVE 11/17/2016) Reginald Johnson mentioned that his case was dismissed when the arresting officer did not show up in court.
DR501: “All commissioned members of this Department are considered officers of the court and shall testify or give evidence before any Grand Jury or court of law when properly called upon to do so and when there is no properly asserted constitutional privilege, or when immunity from prosecution has been granted…”.
Why this is significant, is that an arresting officer is required to appear for the preliminary hearing, where she is required to prove probable cause for the arrest. Officers have been observed to not turn up for the preliminary hearing in order to make a case go away. This might be because a false arrest was perpetrated, or as a reprisal or punishment, where the arresting officer never planned to attend the preliminary, or because the arrest is problematic or sometimes as a courtesy to a fellow officer who is on trial. We posted about this issue, with several examples.
While not attending is a breach of regulations, the worst that happens according to anonymous police sources, is a half-day suspension, and a slap on the wrist is more common.
Why preliminary appearance is important.
Being arrested and having to go through the process of detainment, obtaining bail and legal representation, and take time off work for court appearances is expensive and time consuming for a defendant. Currently the arresting officer is incentivized to allow the case to proceed through the prosecutor’s process, in the hope that the defendant will take a proffer. This can leave the defendant liable for court costs and with a conviction on their record.
The jeopardy and cost issues for the defendant are much greater than any punishment the officer will attract for not turning up. It follows that, if a cop is planning to ditch the case at the preliminary hearing, that the prosecution process should end as quickly as possible, to minimize the harm to the defendant.
We have spoken to police who maintain that it is a policeman’s right to arrest anyone and put her in the jail for 14 hours or so, and to evade consequences by not appearing for the preliminary hearing, a sort of job perk.
Suggested changes to DR 501.
When the missed court appearance is a preliminary hearing, a wrongful arrest should be assumed and IAD should be required to open a false arrest case.
Mandatory and increasing punishments for not appearing at a preliminary hearing should start at a week’s suspension for first offence, and increase for every offense thereafter.
A third offense should be punished with mandatory dismissal from the force.
The existing DR501 has provision for genuine health-related and other excuses for non attendance.
Police should be encouraged to reveal to the prosecutor and defense that he will not attend the preliminary hearing as early as possible in the case, and this should result in immediate dismissal of the case. There should be a reduced punishment for the officer when this happens.
Any pre-trial plea agreement should go to the preliminary hearing for ratification by a judge, so the plea and the case can be thrown out if the officer does not appear, or if he fails to prove probable cause for the arrest. An IAD case should be automatically opened whenever probable cause is not established for the arrest.
Internal Affairs Case Acceptance Policy
MPD’s Internal Affairs sometimes rejects cases. Normal practice for police internal affairs bureaus is that a case should be started for each and every complaint by the public. Federal Department of Justice standards (PDF) states, on page 12 “The widest possible net should be thrown open at intake to receive all complaints from all possible sources of complaint.”
MPD’s IAD does not open a case for every complaint. Instead, they sometimes create a “miscellaneous note” for a complaint. This directly affects CLERB because a rejected IAD complaint can’t be taken up by CLERB.
I personally experienced this, when I called IAD in November of 2016. I had been arrested, and the arresting officer failed to turn up for the preliminary hearing. When I approached CLERB to take up my filming-the-police case, they could not because IAD had rejected the case. I escalated the IAD complaint to the lieutenant in charge, who adamantly refused to open a case. In the end, as Paul Garner’s CLERB case covered similar ground, I gave up trying to get IAD to take the case.
IAD can, and does, create a catch-22 situation by this policy, where cases can be kept from CLERB.
CLERB should make a recommendation that IAD’s policy be changed to be in line with normal police practice and DOJ recommendations. A case must be opened for each and every complaint.
Additional actions by CLERB.
CLERB is likely to encounter additional opportunities to consider P&P changes in the course of their work.
A P&P change that is rejected by MPD can still be taken to Council as an ordinance, or perhaps the Police and Homeland Security sub-committee can take direct action with the police.
The current Council is unlikely to pass a new amendment to the CLERB ordinance to add subpoena powers or to allow mandatory CLERB recommendations.
But the current Council might entertain reasonable small changes to the P&P.
New City Council 2019
The political options for a new City Council regarding CLERB may become greater. There are two additional measures which should be done, given the political will:
Amend the CLERB ordinance again to give CLERB direct subpoena power, and be ready to defend this measure in the courts.
Amend the CLERB ordinance to give CLERB authority to make binding recommendations to the Police Director, including the ability to amend the MPD policy and procedures manual.
Increase the CLERB budget and authorized staff positions.
Next from memphistruth.org is the final piece of the CLERB series. It delves into the political process by which white control over policing is maintained, and its relationship to the economics of power in the city.
CLERB’s mission is to bring transparency to MPD (Memphis Police Department) operations. Transparency requires that CLERB minutes, case documents (possibly redacted), communications with MPD and other City entities, meeting video and other public documents should be posted on CLERB’s website and some of them also on the City website .
In our first piece on the Memphis Energy Burden, we outlined the recent history of energy prices and proposed a program to address the Energy Equity problem, as a way of mitigating excessive energy costs. This is the next step.
We noted that per-unit energy prices, poverty and the energy efficiency of the housing stock were the major components of the Energy Burden, and made the initial assumption that energy prices, being dictated by TVA contracts, and poverty, being a systemic issue, could not be addressed.
By the time we had considered a massive energy equity program as the immediate solution, we found three things:
Due to the viciously cyclical nature of poverty, and its relation to energy burden, addressing the equity issue also addresses poverty.
The scheme as outlined assumes that political will, and the support of the Mayor and a majority of Council members would be required for the Energy Equity scheme.
We suggested that in the current anti-Trump democratic (small “d”) uprising, the MLK50 anniversary and the pocketbook appeal of the utility burden problem would make this politically possible, via campaign platforms in the 2019 City elections.
The outcome is, given these new assumptions, that direct action to reduce MLGW electricity pricing is now possible.
How electricity prices can be cut.
The TVA sold electricity to MLGW at 7.7 cents per KWh in 2016 (pdf), who sold it on to consumers at 9.4 cents per KWh on average. These numbers are taken from the MLGW 2016 annual report. These prices will rise. The $11.60 fixed MLGW monthly charge is averaged into these costs.
Clean Line Energy of Houston proposed a project to TVA which would bring 3.5 gigawatts (GW) of power to Shelby County. They proposed spending $2B on the project, including a transfer station at Millington budgeted at $240M. The price to TVA would have been two cents per KWh. This project died on the vine when TVA failed to engage.
The average peak MLGW system load was just over 2.5GW in June of 2012, so the Clean Energy supply seems to be approximately right for Memphis’s needs.
With the assumption that the political will required to implement the Energy Burden plan has been achieved, the following could happen:
MLGW provides the required five year’s notice of intent to terminate its TVA supplier contract. However, the MLGW distributor contract with MLGW is coming to an end in 2019 and this notice period may have changed by 2020, when the new City Council will be installed. Some TVA distributors (Nashville) have 10-year termination notice requirements. Proponents of the scheme might engage with MLGW to ensure that the contract termination notice is not increased in the new agreement.
MLGW enters into a contract with a reconstituted Clean Line Energy to take the majority of its supply, possibly selling some of it on to neighboring utilities. By the time MLGW solicits bids for the supply, it might end up being another vendor.
Clean Line builds the transmission line and a transfer station within City limits, investing $2B.
Changeover to Clean Line happens after about five years.
MLGW prices its energy to consumers at the 2 cents it pays to Clean Line plus its existing markup of 1.7 cents, or less than four cents per unit. That’s a 60% price cut.
JT Young has just started at MLGW and we don’t know what he thinks.
It’s not quite that simple.
The scenario above is complicated by a few factors.
Utilities need to have spare capacity ready to throw online at a moment’s notice in order to keep the system stable.
There are several ways this could be done.
Contract with TVA for spinning capacity at the Allen Gas Plant. TVA would otherwise have to send the output of Allen to Jackson and Nashville to sell it, and transmission is expensive. MLGW could negotiate for some of this capacity.
Contract with surrounding utilities to obtain spinning capacity. A swap with cheap Clean Line power might be negotiated into this.
Utility-size battery storage is available in the megawatt range, ideal for direct current sources and with instant availability.
Any type of potential energy storage would work. This Irish project at Turlough Hill pumps water into a reservoir at the top of a hill during periods of low demand, and runs the water back down the hill when instant capacity is needed. Flywheels and almost any method of storing potential energy would work here.
The Memphis energy demand peak is in summer and during the afternoon, so augmenting supply with solar power would be a good match.
The foregoing is included because the availability of peak spinning power is always an early objection to this scheme. We think this is an engineering /costing problem by nature and that good options are available.
The average cost of a unit of electricity will be a little higher than the two cents of the Clean Line proposal, as we need to figure that spinning capacity will come at a premium cost per unit. MLGW will need to invest in or contract for a portfolio of additional sources. Solar, at the industrial scale, appears to cost about 4 cents per unit. We’d estimate that if 90% of capacity is 2 cent wind energy and the remaining 10% costs ten cents per unit, the average cost per unit would increase to under three cents per unit, bring consumer prices to about half of current prices, and the 5.1 cents per industrial unit could drop to three cents or less.
The average annual consumer bill would drop from $1381 to about $690, an average savings of around $58 per month. We think that the extreme cost-savings measures used by poor customers might relax a bit in these circumstances, which would be the same as customers choosing to spend part of the savings on energy.
We find it hard to speculate on the combined effect of the energy efficiency program with the alternate sourcing. We’d guess that some of the incentive to save energy will go away, but, on the other hand, there might be increased demand for replacement of gas central heating units, water heaters and clothes dryers with electrical units. The savings would potentially provide an additional source of grant funds (as opposed to loans) to make an energy efficiency program more attractive. There is an environmental benefit to using less natural gas and more renewable electrical energy.
MLGW could also be allowed to keep some of the initial windfall by phasing in the price cuts and using the savings to upgrade outdated infrastructure and bury some power lines.
Renters will benefit fully from this scheme.
In any event, we don’t think many consumers would reject a 50% cut in electricity rates, even if they were making payments on energy efficiency projects.
Changing TVA as the main utility source, because of the notice period the TVA contract requires, is a project that would span at least two City councils and administrations. We can’t assume that the same political sentiment will exist at the end of the project.
On the other hand, at the end of a four year term, hundreds of millions of dollars worth of contractual obligations would have been delivered and the cost of abandoning the project would be large.
Being able to provide industrial electricity in the region of three cents per KWh would make Memphis a very attractive location for various high-energy industries, including corporate data centers and cloud storage, bit coin mining, aluminum smelting, hydrogen production and companies desiring renewable energy. This brings jobs and economic development, and we would not need PILOTs to make this happen.
The consequences of the city saving a combined $600M annually on energy, of which $250M would be in consumer bill savings, would be considerable and positive. Project construction and the attraction of low energy prices for industrial development are significant drivers of industrial development.
The Clean Line proposal is currently shelved and we don’t know how the company will respond to a Request for Proposal from MLGW. At the same time, the utilities process will allow other potential suppliers to quote, so the ultimate cost is dependent on a lot of factors. Direct current transmission is unusual. It is a natural for solar power, as it is produced as direct current, but wind energy is created as alternating current, so it is converted at both ends of the transmission line. DC transmission has less energy loss than AC. It is a mature technology used since the 1930s.
High voltage DC is considered risker than AC from the point of view of safety. Electrocution injuries and fire hazards are worse with DC.
Memphis is not married to TVA. In many ways, despite MLGW being TVA’s largest customer, taking 30% of its capacity, Memphis has always been TVA’s bastard stepchild. MLGW is obligated in its charter to provide utilities at the lowest practical cost. It is obligated to review alternative suppliers.
A large part of the problem with TVA is the chilling effect it has on renewable energy generation. JT Young said, on WKNO’s “Behind the Headlines”, March 30th 2018, that Southern Corp, his former employer, sells 11% renewable energy. This compares with about 1% by TVA. This is a measure of the environmental damage TVA is perpetrating in the Valley. That alone is good reason for re-examining MLGW’s relationship with TVA.
Memphis has the highest energy burden of US cities. MLGW and TVA propose a series of rate increases. A new City program to invest heavily in the energy efficiency of our homes can address the energy burden, reinvest in our communities and reduce poverty. Continue reading “Memphis Energy Burden”→
This information is culled from 119 screen dumps of a Facebook conversation on Whitney Wood’s (now Flaherty) page, over five days in January 2016. Adam Guerrero dominated this exchange, appearing in over 100 of the screen shots and, according to other participants, was abusive. The 119 screen dumps may be downloaded. They are cross referenced according to the 35 people engaged in the conversation and the 21 categories of abuse flagged in the discussion.
We are almost apologetic for including this material. It is truly awful, like watching a train wreck, and we present it as an exercise in trolling.
Adam Guerrero tried to make the point that the story of Whitney’s assault is irrelevant, and only he possesses the bravery and friendship with Black people to be able to make relevant comments in a city which is 70% (sic) Black.
Towards the end of the interchange, Stephanie Diane Ford joined the conversation in screen shot 080. Stephanie Diane Ford, until recently, had been AG’s girlfriend, and SmartMule’s business manager. She recounted a story where three youthful charges of Adam Guerrero assaulted her at Guerrero’s house on 11/11/2015. Guerrero dissembles and obfuscates. Finally, starting in screen shot 111, for seven screen clips (until 117), Stephanie added seven screenfuls of information relating to the incident.
The incident involved two Guerrero proteges, JC and ST. These young men, who were about 19 to 21 years of age at the time of the incidents, were former students of AG from a previous teaching job. They were part of AG’s entourage. They had been coming to Adam’s house for almost six years in 2015, which puts the start of their relationship around their tenth grade.
The screen shots provide the story. Guerrero, JC, ST, and IG, JC’s girlfriend, were in Adam’s house, on the afternoon of 11/11/2015, per screen shot # 113. Adam left the house leaving the three lounging, partying and packing honey. Adam met with Stephanie and then they split up, Adam going to a store and Stephanie proceeding to Adam’s house. IG had been sitting on a sofa with her backpack on the seat beside her. Stephanie approached, moved IG’s bag to the floor, and sat down beside her. IG objected to her backpack being moved, and a melee involving all four people broke out, in which Stephanie was slammed into the wall. The police were called but Stephanie did not press charges and no arrests were made. Adam Guerrero arrived at the house after the police had departed.
Focusing on two of these screen dumps, we see, #113: in which Adam Guerrero says, as part of a 11/12/2015 Facebook conversation with Stephanie and his proteges: “Y’all might be the first case ever of being violent while being high on weed”.
It follows that Adam Guerrero, while in loco parentis, had fallen into the habit of allowing students to lounge in his house unsupervised. The November 2015 incident happened almost six years after they were his students, but the relationship had continued.
If the young people had been stoned when Adam got back to the house, and they had continuously been in the house since Adam left, in all likelihood they had weed when he left and had been getting high in his house.
Stephanie Diane Ford confirms that the young folks had been smoking a blunt when she arrived. When I asked her why the police who answered the 911 call did not smell the weed, she replied that she had kept the police outside in the yard.
Adam Guerrero is on record as favoring pot legalization. When I visited his house in November 2016, I noticed a few pot seeds and stems on his coffee table. I inquired if he had grown the pot and he denied it.
In conclusion, Adam had been in the habit of allowing young people, students and former students, unsupervised access to his house, and on at least one of these occasions, he knew that the young people were high on weed. He was their teacher, and “in loco parentis” when he first met these students, and, at the time of the incident, a mentoring relationship existed with the young people by virtue of their job description of “interns” at SmartMule LLC, Guerrero’s private business entity. When a practicing teacher has an intern, an “in loco parentis” relationship is assumed.
Guerrero was a teacher at Libertas Montessori School at the time of the incident. It is not known if very young children from the Montessori school had visited his house that year, or if his interns had smoked weed in their presence. In addition, in our previous SmartMule article, we photographed many very young people working for SmartMule and it is also not known of any of these young people visited the SmartMule business office while weed was present.
Adam Guerrero has been spoken of favorably by many of his students and former students. We don’t know how much his laissez faire attitude to his “in loco parentis” obligation contributed to his favorable student reviews. In this Change.org petition, many parents of his Libertas students and SmartMule juvenile associates sang his praises. Would those parents have been so supportive if they knew about Guerrero’s process for tempting his students into his home, and his attitude to supervision?
Incidentally, our first post on the subject came four days after he was fired from Libertas. The reason why Libertas fired him was not made public, but we challenge Adam Guerrero to release any documents Libertas gave him as part of his personnel file while firing him. Our information is that the reasons given for the firing were ample and adequately documented by Libertas management.
Note: We present these young people via their on-line pseudonyms, and the incident described is now covered by the statute of limitations. All potential criminal incidents in these texts are moot, either because there was a conviction, or charges were not preferred or because the statute of limitations has expired. These disclosures were public knowledge before I wrote this. No snitching is involved. Everyone involved in this presentation has taken a position for marijuana legalization for persons over 21.
The underlying discussion involved Adam Guerrero haranguing Whitney Flaherty because she was featured as an abuse victim and was not black, like the abuse victims that Guerero had braved Black communities to encounter. Stephanie Diane Ford proved that Guerrero had been involved in, and failed to prevent or redress, an acknowledged assault on her, a Black woman, while under his protection as a guest in his house. During his five days of trolling on the issue, he had performed at least a dozen different categories of abuse and engaged in shameless self promotion.
Guerrero is a U of M graduate who was separated from West Point after undergoing mandatory counseling.
Prior to Libertas, Adam Guerrero was an SCS high school teacher, but he was let go from Raleigh Egypt and from Pathways in Education charter school due to failure to meet professional requirements. Libertas is an ASD school and Adam Guerrero also ran the permaculture program there.
This story is difficult for us because Adam Guerrero is seen as a part of a loose social justice movement, and many activists see these disclosures as divisive. We normally fry bigger fish, but Guerrero gets support and cash from the community and his activities are very different to the narrative he projects.
In this post, we look at:
Adam Guerrero’s nine, mostly blighted, lots in North Memphis, with emphasis on his Shasta and Clyde Ave. locations,
How he skirts tax and employment law for his, often young, employees, and how he maintains unsafe workplaces for these young workers.
He has prominently featured Black people in his promotional material and fundraising, although his one remaining site overseer is a white supremacist.
Rather than combating blight, the Adam Guerrero property empire has seen an increase in blight around some of his lots,
his many former apprentices, interns and other unpaid help have not had a career benefit from their association with SmartMule.
We view SmartMule and Adam Guerrero as a concern, because his victims have included workers and neighborhoods in some of the most vulnerable communities in Memphis.
Adam Guerrero’s Property Empire
Adam owns these properties in his own name. Click the links for photographs , documents and detailed site descriptions.
2267 Shasta: Guerreo obtained this lot through a $1 deed transfer from Memphis Tilth, a community oriented non-profit land cooperative. This property is severely blighted, unsafe, has a suspected racist squatter, and uses child labor.
0 Decatur: This industrial-zoned lot hosts the St Jude composting operation, see below.
0 Shasta: An untended and unimproved blighted lot. Nearby City-mowed lots are neater and trash free.
0 Clyde: An unimproved garbage-strewn and uneven lot which encroaches on Lucille Price Park.
2296 Hunter: An untended and unimproved blighted lot attracting local blight.
1107 and 1113 Breedlove: An untended and unimproved blighted lot with garbage and dogs.
Guerrero was formerly a Garden Leader and board member of Grow Memphis, which is now Memphis Tilth. SmartMule LLC is a member of North Memphis Farmers Collective. His level of involvement has recently been much lower than the 2015 peak, due to disputes with members of these organizations.
His total investment of $811 for the nine plantation lots has produced an assessor’s valuation of $39,100. All of the lots, except for the 2550 Hunter lots, are untended, contain blight and some are also hazardous to workers, local residents and the environment. Guerrero also owns his Townes Ave residence, which is now often unoccupied since his recent move to Frayser.
Guerrero’s level of involvement significantly declined after the 2015 peak due to disputes with member farmers. All original members of the Collective no longer collaborate significantly with or have ended business associations with Adam, after SmartMule took over the Kickstarter and most of its proceeds.
Guerrero was taken to court in 2011 for bad odors from improperly maintained compost bins; standing water, which was acting as breeding grounds for mosquitoes; alleged rat infestation and other pest-related issues at his Townes Ave. home. He answered his neighbor’s and Code Enforcement’s case with a social media blitz, and by parading three young African American children in court.
Guerrero was found guilty of failure to cut grass and failure to remove personal property in Environmental court, fined and assessed costs, on 11/29/2017. Case # 17501410, Shelby Co.
The Shasta Plantation
The property at 2267 Shasta Ave consists of one plot owned by Adam Guerrero, another owned by the city, and several owned by Sylvester Sullivan, an African American neighbor, on which a broken-down travel trailer is parked. It backs onto Cypress Creek at the southern edge of the property. Prior to purchasing his lot, Guerrero erected a fence around the entire area, seizing his neighbor’s land. An altercation over land rights, during which police were called, (pdf) occurred during this time.
As can be seen from the photographs, the plantation at 2267 Shasta is strewn with garbage and overgrown weeds. The broken down travel trailer has no water or sanitary connections. We are unaware of how human sewage from the trailer’s resident and from on-site workers, and slurry from the animals on the site, are handled to keep the adjoining Cypress Creek safe from contamination. There are also workplace safety hazards in the form of piles of construction junk, including boards with protruding nails, fencing material with cut wire ends, chemicals and the unfenced Cypress Creek.
This photo from County Register records, shows Adam Guerrero’s lot outlined in blue, with the hoop house mostly on County-owned property to the south.
This hoop house was purchased with the help of a $20,000 grant from Rhodes College to Grow Memphis, now Memphis Tilth. A chicken house to the east is also on County land. The hoop house and other improvements transferred to Adam Guerrero with the property title.
Failure to remove property from County land is an offense.
Andy Panda, Shasta Plantation Overseer
The occupant of the trailer is Andrew Burkett, who uses the pseudonym Andy Panda. He regularly propagates anti Semitic and white supremacist propaganda.
Andy Panda with child worker
Child labor at Shasta
Child labor at Shasta
Child labor at Shaste
These pictures show Andy Panda with child laborers at Shasta. The water is taken unpaid from a city supply on the street. (Photo credit Facebook)
Although Panda regularly oversees unpaid black children on the Shasta plantation, he uses racial slurs in his speech and social media postings.
These children are psychically and physically endangered at Plantation Shasta.
The Decatur Plantation and the St Jude Composting contract.
SmartMule signed a composting contract with St Jude Children’s Research Hospital in September 2016. The project involved building compost bins at Guerrero’s 0 Decatur property. Free and low wage labor from Black male youth was used for clearing the Decatur property and compost bin construction.
Clearing the Decatur property
Building compost bins
These photographs show young workers building compost bins with Adam Guerrero, and a tree-clearing crew at Decatur. (Photo credit: Facebook)
This purported North Memphis Farmers’ Collective Mailchimp post has some editorial about this project but also some authentic-looking contract documentation showing the amount SmartMule charges for this work, and the income deriving to Guerrero’s SmartMule LLC. The child in the bin-building picture is not equipped with protective equipment or gloves in a hazardous work environment. The tree clearing crew are not equipped with hi-vis vests or safety equipment. We assume they are not covered by workman’s comp as required for even small construction firms.
Bin with broken end
Bin with shredded paper
Broken glass hazard
Bin with exposed nails
At Decatur: Bin with broken end; bin with broken side and shredded paper; broken glass hazard; bin with exposed nails. (Photos: Fergus Nolan)
The St Jude contract, with a nominal value of $48K annually, was signed in September 2016 and compostingwork has recently started. Although several thousand dollars were paid to Smartmule, the Decatur property only contains a small amount of shredded paper trash, and none of the food waste envisioned in the contract. The two employees planned in the Smartmule projections have not been hired.
Smartmule’s Labor Payment Policies
Smartmule uses a large number of unpaid and underpaid, mostly Black children, and some adults on its plantations. These are variously referred to as “apprentices”, “interns”, Guerrero’s Guerillas or the Mules.
In this post on SmartMule’s Facebook page, Guerrero refers to an “apprentice” he has had for “nearly ten years”. He also refers to an incident in which some students, who had been lounging unsupervised at Guerrero’s home, had been involved in an alleged assault on SmartMule manager Stephanie Ford, who was his girlfriend at the time.
Note: the following Facebook quotes were made on a thread on Fergus Nolan’s home page. Adam Guerrero’s Facebook presence is currently suspended but the screen snips were taken on the dates noted.
SmartMule LLC is a single owner LLC #000794077 at the Tennessee SOS. Adam Guerrero said:
An LLC is a for profit entity. It files no financial disclosures, such as Form 990, as required by non-profits.
SmartMule is claimed to be a co-operative, but it is ruled by Adam Guerrero without any input from its workers.
Adam Guerrero runs his for-profit LLC as a regular business and “passed” on including his people in the decision-making process.
SmartMule LLC uses or has used the labor of numerous children and some adults. Many of these children are students or former students. When asked if he paid these children, Adam Guerrero is evasive and said he did not report their earnings to the IRS. We assume no W2s were filed, social security or medicare, workman’s comp as required for all construction work, unemployment insurance or sales tax.
Among SmartMule’s fundraising, this Kickstarter raised over $11K. The fundraiser was nominally for North Memphis Farmer’s Collective, but used Smartmule’s email and bank accounts. This SmartMule bank statement shows a $10,152.21 transfer to SmartMule from Kickstarter in August 2015. The bulk of the money was used to buy a tractor and accessories, against the wishes of the other NMFC members. This tractor is in the possession of Adam Guerrero, who stores it at 0 Decatur and uses it for City contract work mowing the Shelby Farms Greenline.
Adam Guerrero also received $3,500 from Memphis Tilth when they deeded the 2267 Shasta lot to him in September 2017.
While still owned by Grow Memphis, a $20,000 grant from Rhodes College was used to develop the 2267 Shasta lot, which “improvements” were transferred to Adam Guerrero’s personal ownership when he was deeded the Shasta plantation. As this hoop house, and a nearby chicken house, are mostly located on City property, this structure is subject to removal of personal property orders from the City.
Adam Guerrero is evasive when asked if he had parental release forms or other paperwork on the kids who worked for him.
Stephanie Diane Ford, a former unpaid SmartMule manager, said:
Consistent with historical patterns of resource expropriation, Adam Guerrero has been using the images, knowledge and labor of black people to obtain resources (grants, sales income, employment income, income tax deductions and land transfers (via Memphis Tilth)) for more than 10 years with no measurable improvements to the socio-economic status of any black people he has ever worked with or claimed to be helping. (Facebook, 11/29/2017).
Adam Guerrero and/or SmartMule uses young Black men and children for agricultural and construction work, and for eye candy in their publicity materials.
He maintains hazardous workplaces, does not provide appropriate safety equipment, and employs Andy Panda, an abusive racist as an overseer of young Black children.
He does not file required employment tax, sales tax, social security, medicare or workman’s comp for his enterprise.
He represents his for-profit enterprise as a charity or a co-operative, soliciting funds and managing public opinion via a heavy-handed social media presence.
His Shasta Ave. plantation is strewn with garbage and is an environmental risk factor for the nearby Cypress Creek. This and other Guerrero properties have been reported to Code Enforcement many times. All his properties, except for 2250 Hunter, are blighted, contain garbage and are improperly maintained and mowed.
The neighborhoods he operates in were already fragile, blighted and savaged by unemployment before he bought in. Now they’re worse and many pockets are lighter.
Caissa Public Strategy operates behind the scenes. Their stable of client politicians dominates City Council, they’ve worked for Mayor Strickland’s administration and they have a host of business clients, for whom they perform a range of services, from reputation management to marketing to “crisis management”. They are one of the best-connected entities in town.
The first section here “The Caissa Seven” is an analysis of the contributions received by each Councilor and their expenditures with Caissa. It clearly shows how the Caissa Seven dominates Council. This is motivation for a closer look at some of Caissa’s other activities.
The second section, “Caissa Client: Fellowship Memphis and the Rick Trotter case” shows how Caissa orchestrated the “crisis management” of a previous Rick Trotter sex offense at Fellowship Memphis. Trotter was fired in 2010 from his job at Fellowship Memphis when the church elders found he had been secretly videoing women in a bathroom at the church. He then went to Downtown Church, who had been told of his Fellowship history. In 2016 he was arrested for upskirt photography at his new church, and indicted in October 2017. Caissa Public Strategy were called in by Fellowship Memphis and engaged in “crisis management”. The ongoing police investigation of the Fellowship case has apparently stalled. The insight into how Caissa manages client reputations behind the scenes is revealing. A further post is planned, a deeper dive into the shenanigans at Fellowship Memphis. David Bonner termed Fellowship a “cult or cult-like” entity.
Our third section includes basic biographical details on Caissa’s owners, Brian Jefferson Stevens and Paige Walkup.
Caissa, with their massive and mostly secret network, pops up in odd places, generally when an official document has to be filed. Everyone in the media sees their hand in occasional flashes, and knows they are there, but we see few attempts to document their scope and influence. This series of articles is an attempt to gain some insight into what they do, and how.
Note to viewers: I expect some of the links in this article to go away. Not to worry, I have copies of everything. Please inform me of broken links and I’ll annotate them with an alternative source. In this story, broken links are a part of the narrative.
The Caissa Seven.
Above: Frank Colvett, Berlin Boyd, Reid Hedgepeth, Kemp Conrad, Worth Morgan, Bill Morrison, Philip Spinosa. (City of Memphis)
Fig. 1 was created by totaling all contributions, and all expenditures to Caissa Public Strategy, filed at the Election Commission for the period January 1st 2015 to June 30th 2016, for all Council incumbents.
Reid Hedgepeth did not use Caissa in this election cycle. He was first elected in 2007, before Caissa was founded, and had his own campaign habits set. We include Hedgepeth in the Caissa Seven on the basis of this Daily News article featuring a Brian Stephens interview, which identifies Hedgepeth as part of the Caissa contingent. He also donated $5000 to the Republican Party on his Pre-General 2015 campaign disclosure, and Republican affiliation is another marker for the Caissa Seven.
Kemp Conrad’s expenditures for the Pre-General 2015 disclosure are not on file. We estimated $30,000, based on other candidate’s patterns. All the other numbers were taken straight from the campaign disclosures.
We can see a clear breakdown of City Council. The Republican-oriented mostly white Caissa Seven had average contributions of $146K while the African American opposition group had average contributions of only $34K. The Caissa Seven netted five times the money of the opposition, and spent even more, because some Caissa candidates also loaned large amounts to their campaigns, including Worth Morgan’s $50,000 loan.
Although the opposition group is a recognizable subset of Council, they don’t vote as a group and Edmund Ford has a lot of similar, big money contributions to the Caissa Seven. They are an individualistic group.
On the other hand, the Caissa Seven share a common agenda, and tend to vote as a bloc on issues critical to the big money politics of the Memphis white power elite. This can be clearly seen in policing-, zoning, budget and property related issues. Some latitude is allowed on non-critical agenda items, including Berlin Boyd’s and Kemp Conrad’s divergent votes on Berlin Boyd’s Marijuana measure in August 2016. The Commercial Appeal called it a “rare split vote”.
Violations of the Open Meetings Law have been alleged. We don’t know what mechanisms might have been used to apply an apparent whip to the Caissa Seven, and, in many cases, the other Councilors. The only apparent linkages are some shared staffers at City Hall, Allan Wade, the Council Attorney, and their handlers at Caissa, all of whom would have had legitimate reasons to talk to multiple Council members. We don’t want to speculate on whether there was a Whip or how it might have been applied, but we also don’t understand how complex resolutions suddenly formed from whole cloth.
As Caissa operates behind the scenes, the existence of their own “party” in City Council is reason for concern. Caissa also worked in the Jim Strickland Mayoral transition in 2015. Their influence, which they exert on behalf of their private clients, is pervasive in City Government.
Bill Morrison worked for Caissa as George Flinn’s campaign manager. Those campaign disclosure documents are missing from the Election Commission site, but two knowledgeable sources confirm.
Caissa also worked for County Commissioners Heidi Shafer and Willie Brooks. The 2014 County election cycle candidate disclosures are so incomplete that we don’t want to infer anything , except that Caissa’ influence in the County is also strong.
Caissa Client: Fellowship Memphis and the Rick Trotter case.
Caissa is a company of secrets, and their client list is one of the biggest of those secrets . We defer discussion of their clients for a future article in this series and focus on a single case here, Fellowship Memphis.
Wondering Eagle blog has done numerous pieces about Trotter’s career over the years. In this August 2016 post, David Bonner talks about Caissa Public Strategy’s involvement in the Trotter case.
According to a joint statement by Downtown Church and Fellowship Memphis, Trotter’s previous employer, “Trotter was employed as a Worship Director by Fellowship from August 2005 to February of 2010. In February 2010, it was reported that Trotter was engaged in inappropriate conduct”. Trotter had made video of people using a bathroom at the Church.
From David Bonner’s August 2016 blog post: Asterisks are inserted by us and refer to the notes at the end of the extract.
“.…In the case of Fellowship Memphis the hiring of a PR firm to supposedly “investigate” the situation creates a number of questions that deserve asking. … Fellowship Memphis recently hired a PR firm called Caissa Public Strategy. … Caissa is led by Brian J. Stephens * and I am hearing from my sources that the investigator is Jessica Muntz**. Jessica is a graduate of Mississippi State University, and you can see her background in LinkedIn right here. While Caissa is referred to as a public relations firm in this Christian Post article it says that Fellowship Memphis hired a PI firm. The reality is that it can be both. In this interview you *** can hear Brian J Stephens talk about how Caissa works. They help clients win and do what it takes to win and allegedly teach organizations and companies that crisis can also be an opportunity. …
For a church to go and hire a PR firm signals a couple of things for me. First is that this place is very cult like or cultish. Second is that its (sic) very much and (sic) indicator that it still is committed to maintaining the alleged cover up. I wonder if the reason why Caissa is hired is because of their knowledge of the news media and if that is a response to the articles about Fellowship Memphis in the Commercial Appeal. …
If you live in the Memphis area and you are contacted by Caissa this is my advice to you. First of all remember that this firm is not neutral. They are not there to get the truth out. They have been compromised in this one way. Money has exchanged hands and this firm is dedicated to defending the client, which in this case is John Bryson and Fellowship Memphis. It should be stated that you have your rights and you do not have to cooperate with them if you are approached. Their goal in the end is to plug leaks and to do damage control for Fellowship Memphis. When it comes to allegations of criminal activity there is one organization you should go to first and that is the Memphis Police. It’s my understanding that the Memphis Police are investigating the situation with Rick Trotter. They have three years of recordings to go through and they have a lot of victims to identify. But remember if you are approached you are free to walk away and not cooperate. You have done nothing wrong, this behavior is more indicative of what you would see in the dark underworld of the mafia. I also would suggest that you not get angry at Jessica Muntz as she is just doing her job. Be polite, cordial and treat her with respect but remember you do not have to talk with her and anyone from Caissa. If you have knowledge of an alleged crime I again would implore you to go to the Memphis Police. They exist for that purpose and are trained to handle these kinds of issues. If any of you guys have any experiences with Caissa you are free to post them here on this blog.
* Brian Stephens’ bio on the Caissa website. At the time the blog was posted, the “Leadership” page clicked through to individual biographical pages. These individual pages have since been removed and Bonner’s link is showing a “HTTP 404” error, indicating that the page was not found. As of 10/28/2017, none of the Leadership individual entries click through to an underlying bio page. This is how Brian Stephens bio looked on July 14, 2016, courtesy of Archive.Org.
** Jennifer Muntz’s bio on the Caissa website has been removed since this blog was posted. Muntz has left Caissa’s employ. Here’s Jessica Muntz’s Caissa bio, as it appeared on 9/2/1026, at Archive.org.
*** This link pointed to a post in LPBC.com. The Lipscomb Pitts Breakfast Club is a volunteer outfit run by Jeremy Parks. The post in question is a radio show broadcast from 1/14/2014 entitled “Gestalt Community Schools: Copeland Coaching and Caissa Public Strategy featuring an interview with Brian Stephens. We retrieved the Stephens interview segment from Archive.Org. Streaming audio here.
Although the removed links are fairly trivial, the fact presumably Caissa chose to change their site and also that Parks redacted his own site is interesting. This is the sort of thing an expert in “reputation management” does all the time.
Caissa was called in to perform “crisis management” when the Fellowship story blew up again at the time of Rick Trotter’s August 2016 arrest.
The screen snip above right is from Watch Keep blog post dated 8/22/2016. The phone number is Jessica Muntz‘s cell number.
JB Martinez, one of the alleged victims of the Fellowship Memphis alleged voyeur, writes about her experience. She describes steps taken by Fellowship Memphis to hide evidence and to browbeat victims to not report the alleged crimes.
Because the Trotter video has been hidden, and was seen only by two Fellowship elders, the alleged victim list is hard to compile, but we do have a list of people who used the bathroom at a time when Trotter was known to be videoing, which we will share with media.
The proof of Caissa’s effectiveness is that, until now, Rick Trotter, despite being fired for sexual impropriety at Fellowship Memphis, was able to go to Downtown Church and continue photographing women up-skirt for another six years, despite Downtown being notified of the reason why he was fired at Fellowship. The sorry episode resulted in no prosecutions and only a few media mentions.
We have recently seen signs that Caissa is actively pursuing “reputation management” in the late-October – early November timeframe. Caissa operatives have been contacting Fellowship Memphis alleged victims.
On November 2nd, a mention of Caissa in a post apparently resulted in a Caissa employee joining the group, less than two hours later.
We are seeing heightened activity.
We invited Brian Stephens to comment on this article, but he did not return two calls to his office and cellphone. His book title is “Only Morons say No Comment”.
Caissa Public Strategy is headed up by Brian Jefferson Stephens and Paige Walkup. Caissa have removed their personal bios, which were clickable from their Our Team page. Here’s an archived version of the team page from 2016, where the potted bios are still visible, courtesy of Archive.org
Brian Jefferson Stephens attended Marion Military Institute from 1988 to 1992, was awarded a BS by Appalachian State University 1992-1995, and has a law degree from University of Tulsa College of Law, 1995-1998.
He worked as an attorney at Allen, Scruggs, Sossaman, and Thompson from 1998 to 2003, Tennessee Law license 1999, operated a lawn care business as Ecosystems Inc (SOS Control # 000460890) from 2004 to 2010, was Executive Director of Rebuild Government in 2009 to 2010 and started Caissa Public Strategy with Paige Walkup in December 2010.
Stephens was awarded the Army Achievement Medal, according to his Linkedin page. This is only awarded to lower ranks in the military, so we conjecture that he had an Army Reserve deployment somewhere in his career. 60,000 of these were awarded since 2001.
Caissa was registered on 12/28/2010 to take over the business of The Stephens Group Law Firm. Paige Walkup is the co-owner and Managing Director
Paige Beverly Walkup attended North Carolina State University from 1990 to 1992, has a BA from Elon Univ (1993 to 1996) and an MA in Applied Anthropology from University of Memphis (1997-1999).
She taught at Univ. of Memphis from 2000 to 2009, was Resource Development and Marketing Director at United Housing from 1998 to 2009, Project Administrator at Rebuild Government from 2009 to 2011, and was a founder of Caissa Public Strategy in December 2010.
*confirmed still at Caissa. **Confirmed to have left Caissa
Conclusions and Summary
Caissa’s political clients and allies, the Caissa Seven, dominate City Council by a one-vote majority, and also dominate in raising political contributions. Caissa also has hooks in Jim Strickland’s administration and in various City programs and functions.
Caissa has played a role in helping the elders of Fellowship Church hide from the consequences of their alleged involvement in covering up a sex crime, and enabling the alleged perpetrator, Rick Trotter to work at another church, Downtown Church. Fellowship Memphis failed in their duty to report the alleged crimes to the authorities, and Downturn Church, despite being informed of Trotter’s firing for sexual misbehavior, failed to protect their own members from similar abuse.
At least three links in the original David Bonner blog, all relating to Caissa, have been removed since the blog was posted. Caissa conducted interviews with victims and some of those victims have not cooperated with official inquiries. Evidence in the case may have gone missing. MPD were never noted for efficient handling of sex and domestic abuse cases . The seven year delay in handling the Fellowship Memphis cases, despite some victims filing complaints, for a case not involving rape kits, is excessive. We have questions.
We like to characterize this Fellowship mess as an onion. There’s an outer layer consisting of Caissa’s “crisis management” of the troubles of the church elders. The second layer is the role of the Fellowship management in dealing with the Trotter case, which seems to include activities around the disposition of physical evidence and possible interference with victims and witnesses. This started when the Trotter activities were first reported in 2010 and involved Caissa more recently. The inner layer of the onion is the alleged crimes of Trotter himself. It’s three different sets of behaviors, occurring in different time frames and involving three different sets of protagonists. If there were crimes involved, some of them may have statutes of limitation issues.
We think another layer of “crisis management” is in the process of formation at the time of writing, November 2017.
Next post: Caissa’s clients and contracts. Coming soon.