Caissa Public Strategy and the Caissa Seven

Introduction

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.

caissa_group_shot
Paige Walkup, Gene Bryan, Mae Bennett (formerly Yearwood), Brian Stephens and Mary Joseph (formerly Tanner). Bennett has since left the company.  (Memphis Chamber of Commerce)

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.

Caissa_Spend_ranked
Fig 1: City Council Incumbents, their total contributions and their spending with Caissa during the 2015 election cycle.

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.

These photos: Kemp Conrad and Brian Stephens, Philip Spinosa and Stevens, and Stevens with Bill Morrison are on Brian Stephens’ Facebook page.  Conrad is wearing a “We need Reid” button, suggesting that the event was a Reid Hedgepeth function during the 2015 campaign cycle.   This confirms that, even though Hedgepeth did not retain Caissa Public Strategy for his campaign, that he is a fully-fledged member of 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.

Caissa_seven_graph
Overall contributions in blue with Caissa spend superimposed in red.

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.

Brian Stephens and Gene Bryan of Caissa, with Terry Roland at a deannexation meeting in 2016.

Caissa Client: Fellowship Memphis and the Rick Trotter case.

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Beth Bryson, Rick Trotter and John Bryson taken November 2015. Beth is a likely victim of Rick Trotter’s alleged 2010 crime, and John Bryson was involved in Trotter’s firing and subsequent cover-up. (Facebook).

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.

Rick Trotter was the Grizzlies announcer and employee of Downtown Church, arrested in August 2016 and recently indicted for  up-skirt photography at Downtown Church.

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.

fellowship_memphis_staff_2010
Fellowship Memphis staff in 2010.

 

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. …

trotter_leading_service_CA_2005
Rick Trotter leads the Fellowship Memphis congregation in song during Sunday services in October 2006 when he was named the new voice of the Memphis Grizzlies. (Mike Brown/The Commercial Appeal)

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.

Notes:
* 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.

trotter_in_court_2016_ca
August 10, 2016 — Rick Trotter appears in general sessions court with his attorney Marty McAfee (left) for a hearing on charges that he photographed individuals without their consent. (Jim Weber/The Commercial Appeal)

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.

fellowship_mem_notice
Fellowship Memphis announcement, from Watch Keep blog.

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.

Current Developments

only_morons
Credit: Amazon.com

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 People

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.

 

Stephens Links

Rebuild Government from Memphis Business Journal
Rebuild Government from WMC TV5
Channel 3 on the MPA billboards issue with Stephens on the panel.
Daily News discusses Caissa.
Brian Stephens ran for City Council in 2007.  Election Commission has no records.
CEOs For Cities puff piece on Stephens
Stephens is involved in Leadership Memphis
Stephens wrote a book.
Stephens did a 180 from City County merger in 2010 to deannexation in 2017.
Memphis Business Journal article.
Photographer John Pittman quotes Brian Stephens “workout…so vigorous it had made him vomit”.
Memphis Chamber of Commerce features Caissa.

Caissa was registered on 12/28/2010 to take over the business of The Stephens Group Law FirmPaige Walkup is the co-owner and Managing Director

 

Paige Walkup.

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.

Paige Walkup Links

Rebuild Government from Memphis Business Journal
Memphis Business Journal profile.
Memphis Connect interview.
Board Member at BLDG Memphis
The Health, Educational and Housing Facility Board Memphis.

Caissa Biographies

Brian Stephens.*   Paige Walkup,*  Rick MassonGene Bryan.*  Mae (nee Yearwood) Bennett.**  Jessica MasseyJacob Ellerbee.   Mary (nee Tanner) Joseph.* Jasmine Pena. * Jessica Muntz.**  PhotosEric Saffold, Mykila Miller, Adrian Bond and Raquel Hinson are now included on the Caissa site, but all bios are now blocked or not included on the site.

*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. 

 

Berlin Boyd: Draining the Swamp at City Hall

berlinboyd_lg2Ryan Poe’s Commercial Appeal article on the Boyd Scandal on September marked a watershed in Memphis politics.  This is Ryan’s well-deserved scoop, but I am pretty sure it could not have been written two years ago.

179b5-1ryvanppue7wbw2foij7wggDuring the 2015 election cycle, the Boyd article to the right appeared in the CA.  The piece, written by Kyle Veazey, who has since left the CA to work for the city, contains two factual errors, which, incidentally, have never been corrected by the CA.

An anonymous source circulated a packet of information at the time, showing that Boyd’s realtor license had expired more than a year before.    It went to most of the media, and to Anthony Anderson and Thurston Smith, Boyd opponents in the District 7 election.

Although posing as a realtor without a license contravenes Tennessee Real Estate Commission (TREC) rules, this story got no play whatsoever.   We know the source of this leak and have a copy of the packet that was sent.

The next attempt to out Boyd  came in the Facebook page, Memphis Raise Your Expectations.  (MRYE).  This October 2015 post garnered 427 comments and had a charmed life.   MRYE incubated Memphis Coalition of Concerned Citizens and has broken significant news stories.

After being dormant since the November 2015 election, this thread started up again, on November 2, 2016, and hundreds of new comments were added.   The new posts had a lot of new information.   The thread was closed in November 2016 and this new Boyd thread continued the discussion.  Warning:  The MRYE Boyd posts contain adult content).

Soon afterwards, on January 9th 2017, I published my first Berlin Boyd piece,  followed by an article on his TREC relations and another on his support from the Media, on January 17th and 30th

The information was not picked up by the media, but it did ignite a discussion on MRYE, in which the media got called out and somewhat forcefully reminded of the role of the fourth estate.

I can now reveal that the Boyd exposes were not all my own work.   They were the product of a group that was started in August, 2016.  Let’s call it the Boyd Study Group.   Because the crew contains confidential informants, I will continue to protect its anonymity.   I was the scribe so I by-lined the posts in MemphisTruth.org. This was in accordance with the site’s stated policy on protection of confidential sources.   I composed the first drafts of the pieces, based on group discussion, they went through a group editing process, and all salient information was fact checked by me and citations provided.

Activist study groups had sprung up during the Greensward disputes of 2016 and the technique has been widely adopted in activist circles.   This is one of a dozen such groups that I know about.

We could have done like Woodward and Bernstein did with Deep Throat, and had clandestine meetings in parking garages, but instead we chose to integrate our confidential sources into the group.   I can say that the Boyd Study Group has white, African American and Latino members, men and women, believers and skeptics.   We decided that these groups work best when small, a maximum of five members and ideally four.   We use encrypted media.   I have never met one member, met another only once and we have cell-based operational security.

MRYE had the scoop on the Boyd Papers.   In an unrelated event, I uncovered the A-list and broke the story in MemphisTruth.org and MRYE.    The media seized on this story and it ran in February and March, yielding several court cases, notably the ACLU case against the City and MPD.    Mayor Strickland and Director Rallings squirmed for the cameras.

The media, specifically the CA, had been challenged to perform its role as the Fourth Estate.   The A-list controversy, coming at time of cutbacks in the press, highlighted something important that both the media and the activist community held in high regard.  We could all get behind the First Amendment.   In the backwash of the Trump presidency, these things suddenly seemed important.  Activists worked with the media, and mutual respect was garnered.   The media had changed, even the august, pro status quo  CA, scalded by cutbacks in the press room, could no longer get by without contributions from citizens media.   The news and politics got interesting.   The accession of Mark Russell to the Executive Editorship of the CA seemed to bring a new era of journalistic openness at the CA.   He was heard to say that we had been giving his guy Ryan Poe a hard time, and that was OK with him.

The Boyd Scandal Erupts

Ted Evanoff of the CA posted this early news of Boyd’s $280,000 contract on September 11th.  Then, Ryan Poe published his first piece on Berlin Boyd’s failure to recuse himself from a conflict of interest in his contract with Beale St Merchants Association.   The stalwart Bill Dries of the Daily News pitched in, and MRYE buzzed with the news.  Even City Councilor Worth Morgan added his criticism.   Behind the Headlines discussed.

Berlin Boyd rebutted on Facebook.

The pivotal point in the discussion came with Bernal Smith’s Open Letter in the Tri State Defender.   This was a scathing rebuttal of Boyd’s excuses, which did not pass Smith’s “smell test”.   Notably, Smith quoted several MRYE comments in his letter.   Boyd even came on MRYE (I think for the first time) and engaged in a long discussion on the 15th.

Paul Morris, former interim manager at Beale St., posted twice on Facebook, on 09/14/2017 and 09/15/2017.  In the second post, he raised a red flag at the corruption potential of the Allen Wade legal opinion, which opened the door for all City Council members who wished not to declare conflicts of interest.

Ted Evanoff penned this piece in the CA on September 16th, a rare defense of Boyd.   The CA editorial on September 19th was a scathing criticism of Boyd, likening it to a Trump shenanigan.   The CA editorial team set the tone of the debate, and, hopefully forever, officially placed the CA on the side of transparency and accountability.   We view this as one of the main achievements of the Boyd Scandal.

Social Media was on fire.  Retired veteran reporter Les Smith contributed, MRYE was livid and a twitter feed, @BoydAndAss and hashtag #BerlinBoyd appeared, as well as a short-lived Facebook page misleadingly labeled Boyd-Associates.

The same day the CA editorialized, Boyd announced he would be “rescinding” his Beale St. Merchants Association contract.  We believe that Boyd had being discussing the issue with his handlers and had not wanted to give up the lucrative gig.  Media pressure made him do it.

Ryan Poe posted the news, while the meeting was still in progress.   This story went big in the media.   Otis Sanford on WREG Channel 3.  The Flyer posted, as did Bernal Smith in the TSD, neatly summing up.

Draining the Swamp

Berlin Boyd is not the only Council member who engages in questionable practices.   The use of public money for private gain is rampant.  This “Ethics Petition” from 2014 has details.

The Boyd study group is currently examining our methodology.   We have learned some lessons from Ryan Poe and our efforts with the Boyd scandal.  We have relied on confidential sources and the media following the money.   We have had some learning curve.   We have seen how one self-enrichment scheme works, and how it is narrowly defined as legitimate by Allen Wade, the City Council counsel.

We plan to make our next project more efficient, and rely less on chance to find patterns of corruption.  We’ll report back on what we find.

The Boyd Study Group continues its work, and continues to be secret to protect its embedded sources.  To use an analogy from government spying, we substituted human intelligence sources for a range of possible technical information gathering methods.  Alternative techniques exist for this sort of work, including neural network based text mining applications and crowdsourced citizen searching of available public records.    We are currently analyzing our methods and data with a view to improving future corruption research, and will publish our findings.   We are spawning new study groups focused on other targets in the city.   The swamp at City Hall needs to be drained, and no incumbent seems interested in doing that.

Updated 9/27/2013 to add Paul Morris links and the contract amount.

 

The July 21st Health Science Park Action, the MPD and the TACT Unit

On Friday July 21st 2017, a group of less than twelve people started assembling in Health Science Park, at around 5 PM.  The park is the location of the grave of Nathan Bedford Forrest, surmounted by an equestrian statue.  The Sons of the Confederacy had been at a meeting in the Mason Hall across Union.

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We made a video of the events of that day, at Sons of the Confederacy at Health Science park

The earliest police presence was an unmarked black Suburban parked in a front corner of the Office Depot parking lot.   The occupants of this SUV never got out, and at some point this vehicle departed.  As the Sons’ meeting ended, a couple of hundred Sons straggled across Union and congregated at the Forrest statue.

The story of the event is in the video.   There were about five marked UT police vehicles parked and moving around the park from the beginning.   Gradually, unmarked Suburbans of the MPD TACT unit started arriving, blue lights flashing, until there was a total of nine TACT SUVs, parked on the north side of Union in front of the park.

After reading this ‘The Intercept’ article our theory now includes the possibility that the MPD brass is aware of a large number of KKK and other hate group “Ghost Skin” members in their ranks, and they were afraid that, if the Sons of the Confederacy had resorted to armed violence, that the MPD supremacists might join in the slaughter.   This is the subject of ongoing investigations, by us and by others.

TACT officers turned up at, at least, two previous political events this year.  Two vehicles with five officers were at the MLK celebration on February 4th and two vehicles with four officers at the May 1 Immigration March.   We assume that TACT also attended the Valero protest on January 15th but have been unable to confirm this.  The mustering of the entire on-shift TACT complement on July 21st is, as far as we know, unprecedented.

All the TACT vehicles are black Suburbans, no visible police gear except for half-moon hubcaps. The vehicles have very dark window tinting, so you can’t see the occupants.  When the TACT unit is deployed, one TACT officer stays with the vehicle at all times, probably because they have full-automatic weapons, explosives and other gear stored inside.  As there are usually two officers per vehicle, that means it takes as many vehicles as deployible TACT officers, hence the nine seen at the Sons of Confederacy event, which was probably the entire on-duty TACT unit, about 18 soldiers. The MPD TACT unit includes one major and two lieutenants.

At MLK march, 4/4/2017 (snipers deployed from one of these vehicles, which had a three man crew) Shelby civilian tag  number Z49-55J and one other unidentified TACT vehicle with alloy rims rather than the half-moon hubcaps seen on all the other Suburbans.

At the Immigration March, 5/1/2017 Shelby civilian tag  number Z49-27J and one other unidentified TACT vehicle, with four officers.

At the Sons of Confederacy event, Health Science Park, 7/21/2017 Shelby civilian tag  numbers: Z49-27J, C85-34S, 136-NLT, 420-VWC, 0F4-3W5, 1960-GA and three unidentified others, where TACT uniformed police were seen enter or leaving the vehicles.

TACT SUV
TACT SUV at Health Science Park 7/21/2017

153-SYI is the tag number of the surveillance vehicle in the Office Depot lot.   We did not see the occupants of this vehicle and they may belong to some other undercover unit.

If the deployment of the entire TACT force at Health Sciences Park suggests that MPD is doubtful  of the loyalty of some of their members, this is a concern in future confrontations.   We presume that the TACT members have undergone psychological testing and deeper background investigations and that the MPD brass is more sure that they can count on the actions of this unit.

We are taking steps to obtain additional information and will edit this post when more becomes known.

About nine armored TACT paramilitaries joined the UT cops, and remained until the Sons of the Confederacy members departed, in three coaches parked on the west of the Park.   At this point, the TACT soldiers started leaving, and the first uniformed MPD units arrived, blue lights flashing.   By 6:30, all the TACT guys had departed, leaving about a dozen marked MPD units.

The reason why so many TACT officers were at the event has been the subject of speculation.  If MPD is aware of alt-right “Ghost Skins” in their ranks, we need to know.  Soon. Before lives may be at stake.    Watch this space.

 

Copwatch-3: MPD and the Fusion Confusion Centers

IMG_3341DHS (the Federal Department of Homeland Security)  lists 53 state and territory fusion centers.  Tennessee Fusion Center is at 901 R.S. Gass Boulevard Nashville, TN 37243 and it has four branches, including one in Memphis.

Wikipedia reports “many .. were jointly created between 2003 and 2007 under the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Office of Justice Programs in the U.S. Department of Justice.

One of the initial purposes of the Fusion Centers was to roll out computer systems, based on NCIS (National Crime Information System) in order to allow information sharing between local LE units.  This role seems to have morphed into a real-time help desk operation sharing information of sometimes dubious provenance.

US Senate Rejects Fusion Centers

Many concerns have been raised, from the points of view of both efficacy and civil rights violations.  The United States Senate Homeland Security Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations report said “Despite reviewing 13 months’ worth of reporting originating from fusion centers from April 1, 2009 to April 30, 2010, the Subcommittee investigation could identify no reporting which uncovered a terrorist threat, nor could it identify a contribution such fusion center reporting made to disrupt an active terrorist plot”.  This translates, roughly, to “Fusion Centers don’t work”.

2015-10-fusioncenter-616x369 ACLU “Surveillance Society” from Fusion Centers

A 2007 ACLU report raised concerns with four areas of fusion center aspects, and said that that the fusion centers were creating a “total surveillance society” in the US.  They suffered from “ambiguous lines of authority”, meaning that the fusion process “allows the authorities to manipulate differences in federal, state and local laws to maximize information collection while evading accountability and oversight through the practice of ‘policy shopping’.” The ACLU was also concerned with the private sector and military participation in the surveillance of US citizens through these fusion centers. Finally, the ACLU report argued that fusion centers were likely to engage in poorly contained data mining because the “Federal fusion center guidelines encourage wholesale data collection and manipulation processes that threaten privacy” and that the centers were “hobbled by excessive secrecy”.

Tenn. Fusion Centers and the A-list

In the wake of the A-list revelations in Memphis, Jeff Winters published Documents: Tennessee Law Enforcement and Joint Terrorism Task Force Monitored Darrius Stewart Vigil, Other Memphis BLM Events.  This paper included the text of an Open Records Act report he obtained from the State of Tennessee.

This report lists various notifications made to MPD and other LE relating to events around the July 2016 commemoration of the killing of Darrius Stewart a year earlier.

On 16th July, 2016, Nashville Fusion Center analyst Lizbeth Hale circulated a memo entitled “ Potential for increased violence towards Tennessee Law Enforcement in response to recent events”.    The threats were “non specific in nature”.  Referring to the numerous protests planned, “There exists potential for domestic extremists, homegrown violent extremists and criminals to incite or carry out attacks / acts of violence using the legitimate, legal protests as cover”.

The report listed a car load of armed white supremacists traveling to Memphis to protest at Nathan Bedford (now Health Sciences) park.   They did not appear.   They also listed several reports of local Vice Lord and Gangsta Disciples tasked to shoot law enforcement, which also didn’t happen.   These threats were anonymous, unsourced and ultimately unreliable.

IMG_6065.JPGOn the strength of these rumors, there was a flurry of emails back and forth, involving Stephanie Juneau of the Memphis fusion center at 225 N. Humphreys Blvd, Suite 3000.  There is a cluster of Federal and State law enforcement offices near that address.   These emails describe gatherings on Winchester and at Health Sciences Park where protests were uneventful and almost rained out.  Other gatherings at shopping locations, the National Civil Rights Museum, various churches and the Commercial Appeal offices featured real time email updates from police who were surveilling protest participants.   These events also involved protests at Graceland and the I-40 bridge.

Many of the individuals at these protests later turned up on the A-list.   There is clear evidence that Facebook feeds were involved, with quotations from Frank Gotti’s facebook page, and it was also noted that when participants were asked not to publish times and places of events, the presumed Geofeedia information was not available to help MPD.    But we also believe that photographs were made, from unmarked vehicles, and it is possible that the MPD Stingray cell-eavesdropping technology might have been deployed.    We count at least a dozen A-list members, including Mary and Terry Stewart, the mother and aunt of the slain Darrius Stewart, whose MPD file probably started around this time.

We conclude that, last July, the Tennessee Fusion Center relied on inaccurate, unverified and ultimately false reports of possible criminal players who might or might not have had an interest in using the protests as cover for unlawful events.    These bogus reports were used to justify unlawful collection of political intelligence and the creation of MPD files on political activists.   We saw these files surface in the extract we call the A-list.

MPD Confidential Sources reveal ‘threat’ policy

Confidential sources with direct knowledge of MPD operations confirm that whenever a threat exists, files can be opened on individuals based on the threat.   The threat does not have to be from a known or credible source, and, even when the threat is proven to be false, the MPD files remain.   Political intelligence on anyone remotely connected with the time and place of the threat can be collected and filed, and there is no mechanism to automatically remove these files if the threat is later proven false.

Corroboration:  Diamond Pipeline “Con”Fusion

Further support for the theory that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) / fusion centers play a role in providing pretexts for political surveillance is in this Washington Examiner piece.   A report produced by DHS, and the state fusion centers of Oklahoma, Arkansas and Tennessee, cited vague threats.  Without any specific threat, they mention the peaceful protests mounted against the Diamond Pipeline.   “While most opposition activity related to pipeline construction remains nonviolent and lawful protest activity, some violent extremists may take advantage of lawful gatherings to attempt to threaten, incite, or commit violent acts against public safety officers or facility staff.”  They say that extreme loner offenders might attach themselves to legitimate protest groups.  They cited “Ecoterrorism” in generally and no specific person, group or threat.   This is actually a broad surveillance threat to most activists in Memphis, as the Diamond protestors are closely allied to many umbrella groups, including CCC.

 

1060x600-43276c0b181c32ef8adcaf4ec28ed97cIf previous experience with the Tennessee fusion center holds true, we expect that this report will be used to justify political intelligence gathering against the Diamond / Valero protesters, which will pull in associations with a large swath of local activists, with whom the Diamond activists are highly integrated.

In Conclusion, the Fusion Center concept, even though it was determined by the Senate to be useless against the terrorist threats for which it was created, staggers forward years after its failure.   The Tennessee Fusion Center creates false reports of gangster and domestic terrorist activity and promulgates these into local LE criminal databases, including those of MPD.   These spurious reports are then leveraged to provide excuses for MPD to participate in prohibited collection of political intelligence gathering.

MPD Pol Intel, 66 years and still with us

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MPD never needed such an excuse.   The 1978 ACLU consent decree documents one undercover MPD agent who infiltrated the Civil Rights movement starting in 1951.  When ACLU challenged MPD on its failure to implement the consent decree in 2010, Larry Godwin, the MPD director, instituted rule DR 138, more than twenty two years too late.   As the Tennessee Fusion Center was in operation by that time, it seems that MPD rolled right over to using the spurious anti-terrorism pretext of the Fusion Centers to continue its illegal political intel gathering unabated.

MPD has been, for over 66 years, the most serious threat to civil liberties in Memphis.  The Tennessee Fusion Centers, and the other nationwide Fusion Centers, may well be the worst threat to civil liberties in the nation.

 

 

 

 

 

Copwatch-2: MPD’s disguised Surveillance Van

MPD is under a 1978 consent decree, which forbids it from collecting intelligence for political purposes.  It is also constrained from so doing by its own DR 138 departmental rule.

Nonetheless, MPD owns a surveillance van, disguised as a traffic division vehicle.  It was first noted during the January 20th Immigration March.  It has only been seen at political events and its dome camera usually aimed at the protesters.    We can imagine no purpose for this vehicle other than to collect photographic and electronic intel on political protesters.   It’s markings as a police traffic van would make it useless for undercover criminal investigations.

Here it is at the April 4th Martin Luther King anniversary parade.   Crew members dressed in black polo shirts launched a drone, which flew above the marchers for a period of about twenty minutes.

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All photos by Fergus Nolan.  Free for public use.

The bogus traffic van next turned up for the Mayday “Day Without Immigrants” march, at 7:50 PM May 1st 2017.   Here it is parked near Clayborne Temple.
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It’s a Ford E-350 cutaway van with a highly modified box body.  The van has a camera dome at the rear, with a steerable camera inside.
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We danced around it for a while and it followed us around.  We discovered that it could not see you if you were right under it.   It only turns downward so far.

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Two crew members got out and fiddled with the camera mount.  They said that they were police and with the ‘Real Time Crime’ unit.  This group is in the Special Operations Division, and is part of the Blue Crush information center, the one with all the monitors and the Blue Crush data feeds.  Not traffic enforcement.

The van has these fish-eye view ports on all sides.  It has a full set of dome lights and sirens. The antenna in the picture on the right resembles a Stingray antenna. The City has several contracts with Harris Corp, the makers of Stingray, here, here, here and hereStingray is an eavesdropping device which emulates a cell tower and intercepts cell phone traffic.

This monitoring of cellphone traffic is a broad search, as all cellphones in the area automatically connect to the bogus cell tower in the Stingray unit.  ACLU considers this to be unconstitutional, and Harris Corp, the makers, require all customers to remain silent about ownership and usage of the devices, which we take to be a sign of guilt.

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This curious device on the roof of the van appears to be a wave guide.   It looks to be of a size appropriate for microwaves.   We have not been able to identify what this elaborate antenna is for and would welcome any information.  The antenna to the right looks Stingray compatible.    The focus was on the wave guide.

 

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The van is fitted with plumbing.

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The crew jumped back in the van when I took pictures of them.   One of them raised this crate to prevent me taking photos of the equipment in the interior of the van.   They stayed in the van and followed me around with the dome camera until everyone got bored with that game.

At about 8:20 PM, the crew darted out of the back of the van into the cab and drove to the end point of the march, at the National Civil Rights Museum.   When they got there, they trained the camera on the crowd in front of the museum.

The drone was not flown that day.   A drone seen near the Civil Rights Museum was identified as that of a supporter.
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We have one additional clue to the provenance of this vehicle.   Although it was first noted on the streets of Memphis in 2017, it seems older than that, from the general aging of the fittings.
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This decal is on the left front of the cab.   The map of Tennessee has a faded yellow spike above Dyersburg and another extension around New Albany.   The letter “Y” has a washed out “A” to the left and a “T” below.  We don’t know what this means but would welcome any ideas.

This vehicle is designed and used specifically for political intelligence collection and has no other use.

Copwatch 1.

 

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MPD Maj. Rudolph (with mouth open) and other officers berating Park Protectors, 05/20/2016 Photograph public domain.

This is the first of a series on how MPD members game the system, as part of a pervasive pattern of corruption in the force. Some of these behaviors are sophisticated and interact in subtle ways, so we will look at a single regulation at a time.
The first topic in this series is MPD DR 501, from Chapter 1 Section 3 of the MPD Policy and Procedure Manual.

Continue reading “Copwatch 1.”

Memphis politics: Berlin Boyd Chapter 1

Reprinted from an original January 9 2017 post.

Berlin Boyd is the City Council Chair at Memphis, TN. I am a 30-year resident of Memphis. I am a Greensward supporter, environmental activist, researcher, inventor, and a small businessman in the food business. I hold a patent for a solar powered reefer truck which is the basis for an ongoing startup to build the trucks. I have done professional research since 2009, focusing on public corruption at the Federal Department of Transport, and I have participated in pro-bono research around Memphis Zoo. I was arrested in Overton Park on Memorial Day, which case was subsequently dismissed and expunged.

I am not a resident of District Seven, but Berlin Boyd, Memphis City Councilor for that district, first claimed my attention on July 19th, 2016 at the City Council Executive session. The Greensward ordinance was under discussion. The background of the issue was the lawsuit that Memphis Zoo, Inc. brought against the City, City Council and Overton Park Conservancy(OPC), seeking control of the Greensward. The OPC filed a counter-suit in February 2016.

At the July executive session, Berlin Boyd said that “the straw that broke his back” was that the OPC, which had been set up and funded by the City, had filed suit against the City. This statement struck me as bizarre, as the Zoo, whose current administration was set up by a City contract in 1994, and is also funded by the City, had first filed against the City and OPC, and the OPC’s suit was a countersuit against the Zoo, not the City. The statement was so weird that I took notice. Boyd was interfering in my District Five business.

Boyd, equally inexplicably, later proposed a motion at Council to withdraw OPC funding, alleging falsely that OPC had instigated the Open meetings lawsuit filed in April by stalwart Park defenders Dr. Susan Lacy and Stephen Humbert. The suit was actually dropped pursuant to the July 19th Greensward ordinance, and everyone involved denied that OPC had a hand in the filing of the suit. I know these people and they are straight arrows. Boyd was flogging a dead horse, as his City Council colleagues told him when they made him drop his Council resolution.

I wondered why Boyd was so vehemently against the excellent OPC. The $5,500 in contributions from the Smith family, including Diane Smith, who is on the board of Memphis Zoo, Inc., and Richard Smith, who represented the Zoo in the mediation which took part in the first half of 2016, may have had an influence.

At this time, the Greensward campaign was on the back burner, and, as I was out on ROR on a long court date, I figured I’d put on my researcher hat, take a long, hard look at Berlin Boyd, and stay out of trouble. Right on cue, I was approached by three confidential sources. One of them already had a dossier on Berlin Boyd. The following is the first part of eight postings on Berlin Boyd’s doings. The best is still to come, this is just the aperitif.

Education

Whitehaven High School
Colorado Technical University, 2012–2014 BS Business Admin, Conferred 10th February 2015, online degree.
New College, Stamford, 1997–2000 BS Business Admin (at BetterMemphis.org and Appendix 5)
New College, Stamford, 2000–2003 MBA (at BetterMemphis.org)
New College, Stamford, 1997–2003 Bachelor of Business Administration (B.B.A.) (Ballotpedia, Appendix 6 )

Fact-check notes on Boyd’s education claims.

New College, Stamford is a community college about 100 miles north of London, in the British rust belt. It offers second level, certificate and diploma level courses. It does not offer bachelor or masters level courses in business administration. When telephoned on 11/4/2016, the Admissions Office confirmed they do not offer these courses and they can find no record of Berlin Boyd ever being registered there.

A business degree from a UK school would be a B.Comm (Bachelor of Commerce). BS degrees are written as B. Sc. (Bachelor of Science) and are only issued for natural science degrees (Physics etc. and computer science), never for business degrees. We do not know what Berlin Boyd was doing between 1997 and 2003. We are sure he was not studying at New College, Stamford. We also don’t know why he claimed these easily checkable degrees.

Professional Qualifications fact checked.

From 14th July 2008 to 13th July 2014, Berlin Boyd held a Tennessee Real Estate License, # 318029.
It was not renewed in July 2014. Appendix 7 has a screen shot of the TN.gov license screen.
During his 2015 campaign for City Council District 7, he repeatedly described himself as a Commercial Real Estate broker.
Appendix 1 is a screen shot of Berlin Boyd’s Linkedin profile from September 2015 showing occupation as Commercial Real Estate Agent at Slovis and Associates. Boyd left Slovis in 2014 but the listing remained until September 2016. Boyd removed his Linkedin profile from public view when challenged.

In the Commercial Appeal of Sept. 2nd 2015, Boyd gives his occupation as “Boyd and Associates/ government relations and real estate; Slovis and Associates”, over a year after losing his Realtor license. This listing was removed from the CA archives after a CA reporter was informed of the errors in the piece, but the CA did this without issuing a retraction. Appendix 5 has a contemporary screen shot of this piece, which we also viewed on 11/26/2016. The Google cache of the CA profile is here.

Appendix 2 is a screenshot of Berlin Boyd’s campaign website from his City Council run in 2015, claiming membership of Memphis Area Realtors Association. We assume he means MAAR, which, when called, were unable to find records of Boyd ever being a member. Appendix 3 is a listing of MAAR’s membership, taken in September 2015, showing no listing for Berlin Boyd. The campaign website is no longer hosted.

Appendix 4 is a screenshot of Berlin Boyd’s Memphis City Council bio, taken in August 2016, also claiming membership of Memphis Area Realtors Association. This was corrected in September 2016 after Boyd was officially challenged.

The Children’s Campus KARE Day Care Fraud

Kimberly Chism and Remark Chism, DBA KARE II at 1732 East Raines and KARE3/ Kare Enrichment Center at 1852 Winchester Rd and other day care businesses were raided by MPD Organized Crime Unit, USDA, US Secret Service, Marshals Service and DHS on November 14th 2013. The WREG archive was viewed on 1/9/2017.

Subsequently, Remark Chism pled guilty to $2.8M in SNAP and child care fraud. He was sentenced to 37 months imprisonment.

TN DHS forced KARE II to close on the day of the well-publicized raids. On January 3rd 2014, KARE II lost its license to operate. On January 14th Children’s Campus LLC was created at Tennessee Secretary of State(SOS). On March 3rd 2014, Berlin Boyd, as the owner of Children’s Campus, submitted an application for a license to operate a day care at 1732 East Raines. DHS rejected the license application on June 24th 2014. WREG obtained this document via an Open Records Act request.

DHS said in its response that they had determined that the current Application for a License to Operate a child care agency is an attempt by Mr Boyd and Ms Chism to circumvent a history of violations of the licensing law … The application does not demonstrate that the Applicant (Boyd) has the safety, welfare and best interest of children in mind, lacks the proper character and does not have an adequate method of administration… Boyd had attempted to fool DHS.

Kare II and Kare 3 has been set up as corporations in 2009 but were dissolved by SOS in 2010. In an unrelated case of a KARE II van crash in 2011, the judge ruled that the day cares KARE II and KARE3 and one other were operated jointly by Kimberly and Remark Chism as unincorporated partners, at the time of the crash and during the 5 years of the case. A child died in the van crash.

This significantly ties Kimberly and Reveal Chism together in running the two day cares. Mr Boyd’s involvement in applying for a license as a straw man for Kimberly Chism ties his application to the fraudulent enterprise and Remark’s guilty plea.

Berlin Boyd is very likely to have known at the time of his March 2014 day care license application that he was acting as a fraudulent straw man in support of an enterprise that was under investigation for fraud.

Political Contributions in the 2015 election

An Excel spreadsheet is available of Boyd’s itemized contributors over $100. It was compiled from Election Commission records.

Total, over $117K.

· Tower Ventures people, 12 contributions totalling $17,500. They want the right to build cell towers in city parks.

· Smith (Fedex) family, 5 contributions for $5,500.

· Boyle Investments, 5 for $3250.

· LEDIC, 3 for $4,500.

· Carol Williamson of Memphis Wrecking (the landfill), 1 for $1000.

· The Hydes, 4 for $1,500.

· Friends of Kemp Conrad, 1 for $1500.

· IAFF Local 1784 PAC 2 for $6,000.

· Reid Hedgepeth, 1 for $1,500.

· Citizens for Better Government $750 and no address given. They are a wingnut anti-government group allied to Trump.

· Brenda Solomito of the Truck Stop proposal, 250.

· George Flinn, $567.

In summary, Berlin Boyd falsified his educational and professional qualifications in the resume he presented to the people of Memphis during the 2015 campaign. He still got the job and the press, although they were aware of his false claims of being a Commercial Real Estate broker, refused to out him.
In subsequent posts, we will be examining, in detail, Boyd’s public statements, the official response to some of his claims, his voting record, his cozy relationships with various entities, including Memphis Wrecking Co and Solomito Developments, his record on CLERB and police transparency and whatever else comes to light. We have many more documents to share.
Contact me with your Berlin Boyd or Worth Morgan information. We have an ongoing transparency cell focusing on Berlin Boyd and we are staffing up a similar effort on Worth Morgan. We are willing to assist anyone who wishes to research any civic issue or representative.

Appendix 1: Page 2 of Berlin Boyd’s Linkedin entry
Date of Listing: Sept. 29th 2015 at 11.23.38 AM

Appendix 2: Screenshot of Berlinboyd.com

Taken 9/29/2015 at 11.21.27 AM. The website is no longer hosted.

Appendix 3: Screenshot of maar.org Member Listings

Taken 9/29/2015 at 2.44.35 PM, listing all Boyds but not Berlin.

Appendix 4: Screenshot of Berlin Boyd’s City bio

Screen shot taken 8/9/2016 at 11:33PM.

Appendix 5: Commercial Appeal Candidate Profile

http://archive.commercialappeal.com/news/government/politics/elections/candidate-profile-berlin-boyddistrict-7-ep-1251898792-327929921.html

We viewed this page on 11/26/2016 and saved this URL. We brought the matter to the attention of CA staff, and since then the URL was removed, without a retraction or correction in the paper. This screen shot was saved on 9/29/2015. The Google cache of this page is here.

Appendix 6: Berlin Boyd’s Linkedin Education entry

We viewed Berlin Boyd’s Linkedin profile, https://www.linkedin.com/in/berlin-boyd-80a14912 on 11/26/2016 and saved this screen snip. The Linkedin page has since been removed from public view. Here, Boyd claims only a primary BBA degree obtained between 1997 and 2003. Elsewhere he claimed a BS and an MBA in business studies from New College Stamford.

Appendix 7: Screenshot of Berlin Boyd’s Realtor License, http://verify.tn.gov/

Viewed 1/9/2017


Concluded —

Letter to Editor in Response to SCLC Memphis’ President, Dwight Montgomery’s Support of Betsy DeVos
By Charles McKinney and Tami Sawyer
Welcome to Re-Elect Jyl Lutes City Council
Responses
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MPD Has Activist List

By Fergus Nolan

img920160530_120908Persistent rumors that MPD is using a list of activists have been circulating since the December 19th “Die-In” at Mayor Strickland’s house.   There are reports of a bound folder containing up to  150 names and personal details, seen at the security desks of various City buildings.

On Tuesday 7th February, I attended City Hall.  One of the police detail approached me in the Council Chamber and asked me to come outside.  He said he was ‘detaining’ me and asked me to stand in a corner.

I saw a plainclothes officer going through a folder at the security desk, and he then approached me and introduced himself as Lieutenant A Bonner.   He informed me that I was on a list, and henceforth I was required to have an escort whenever I went in City Hall.   I asked why I was on the list and he said that it was because of the protest at the Mayor’s house.  I pointed out that no crime was committed during the “Die-In” and that, in any event, I was not there.   He said that it must have been something I wrote on social media.

I should point out that I have no criminal record.  Although I was arrested in Overton Park on Memorial Day for photographing police activities, my charge was dismissed on September 19th and my record expunged, so MPD has no right to have any records on me.  I have also had at least two successful FBI background checks in recent years, including one in late 2016.   I am clean as a whistle.   Anything I wrote on social media in relation to the “Die-In” would have been first amendment free speech.   As would my pieces on MemphisTruth.org and MotorcycleAction.org where I have been publishing lately.

I have a wrongful arrest case at IAD and also CLERB.   Members of Concerned Citizens Coalition who were at the Graceland protest in August had cases for misdemeanor criminal trespass which were dismissed and some of the defendants have a civil rights case against the City currently in progress.   One of the plaintiffs in this case, Keedran Franklin, was followed by multiple MPD vehicles on February 6th.

The take-away:  The organizations with which I am allied, Concerned Citizens Coalition and the Greensward “The Fringe Element” group, whose members seem to make up the majority of the Activist-List (A-List ) 150, have really gotten under someone’s skin in the MPD and/or at the City.

The only open prosecutions against protesters at the moment are those against the twelve Valero protesters.  If there are 150 people on this list, 138 of them are not accused of any crime and are presumably on this list because of exercising our First Amendment rights to speak and protest.

Update 2/8/2017 1:00 PM:  MPD is under a 1978 court order, and had an official policy, against political surveillance:  https://www.highbeam.com/doc/1P2-27551085.html

Update 2/8/2017 5:50 PM  From MPD P&P Manual Chapter 1 section 3

DR 138 POLITICAL INTELLIGENCE

The Memphis Police Department and the City of Memphis do not engage in political intelligence. No member shall intercept, record, transcribe or otherwise interfere with any communications by means of electronic or covert surveillance for the purpose of political intelligence gathering.

No member shall engage in any action or disseminate damaging, derogatory, false or anonymous information about any person which will deprive any individual of their First Amendment Rights; nor will any member encourage, cooperate with, or contract with any local, state, federal or private agency to plan or conduct any investigation involving political intelligence.

Any member conducting or supervising a lawful investigation of criminal conduct (governed by 28 CFR Part 23*) in which the investigation may result in the collection of information about the exercise of First Amendment Rights, or interfere in any way with the exercise of such First Amendment Rights must immediately bring such information to the attention of the Director of Police Services for review and authorization. If approved, the investigation will not exceed more than ninety (90) calendar days. An extension may be granted by the Director for an additional ninety (90) days if necessary.

The regulations for this DR are in accordance with the judgment and decree for Civil Case 76-449 (which can be found on the opening page of the MPD Kiosk website).

* The fundamental principles found in 28 CFR Part 23 operating policies provide law enforcement with the guidance needed to operate criminal intelligence information systems effectively while safeguarding privacy and civil liberties. The Memphis Police Department will operate within the confines of 28 CFR Part 23.

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Berlin Boyd District 7 Man of Mystery, Chapter 3: Press Protection

We wrote about Berlin Boyd’s bogus educational qualification and realtor license claims, his irrational attempt to defund Overton Park Conservancy and his complicity in a scheme to defraud the government in Chapter 1 of our Boyd series.

In Chapter 2, we went into detail about his false claims of being a realtor during the 2015 election cycle, and the case which Tennessee Real Estate Commission is taking against him.

berlin-boyd-profile-in-ca-screen-shot-2015-09-29-at-11-26-03-amThe most disturbing fact about Boyd’s many misrepresentations is that the Memphis media, including all the print and TV media and several online media, and also his leading opponents in District 7, were aware of Boyd’s misrepresentation of himself as a realtor during the 2015 election campaign, and not one of them mentioned anything about the scandal.

While every medium ignored Boyd’s lies, we view the Commercial Appeal as a leading cause of the problem, because they published false information.

On September 2nd, 2015, in this bio by Kyle Veazey, they published that he was a realtor, despite the fact that his real estate license had expired in July 2014.  They also said that he had a B.S. in Business Administration from New College, Stamford.   This is false.  New College Stamford does not offer bachelors degree in business, and they have no record of Boyd ever being registered there.   Chapter 1 deals with these issues and how easy they were to fact-check.   The reporter, Kyle Veazey, now works for the City, and this piece is fake news.

When I published Chapters 1 and 2 of Berlin Boyd – District 7 Man of Mystery, fact-checking and revealing the TREC case against him for his fraudulent realtorship claims, the media maintained their silence, despite a mail blast we did to dozens of reporters.

Ryan Poe, the City beat reporter for the Commercial Appeal, invited me to send him the material, which I did in a series of emails between November 8th and 11th 2016.   I sent all the information behind Chapter 1  and selected information from the TREC episode, including the case number and a list of the documents in the file.

I sent him the following links to articles in the CA archive: the Veazey Boyd profile and a piece on the day care raids in these emails.

http://archive.commercialappeal.com/news/government/politics/elections/candidate-profile-berlin-boyddistrict-7-ep-1251898792-327929921.html is a link I viewed and saved on November 26th 2016.  After sharing this link with Poe, it has since disappeared from the CA archive.  The Google cache is here.

Another link I shared with Poe, about the day care raids, viewed and saved on November 26th, is also missing from the CA archives.   The Google cache, viewed on January 9th, is also missing.  Here’s a copy of the Google cache, saved on January 9th 2017.

Ryan Poe, quoted from social media on January 9th, said: “we’ve had lots of problems with our archived articles. I’ll let the tech folks know that link is broken.”   I have a master’s degree in computer science and 32 years experience in IT, and my professional opinion is that a sysadmin that cannot maintain a simple, low-volume archive like this with 100% reliability would not keep his or her job for long, and would subsequently be unemployable.

Mr Poe also said that he was still ‘looking into’ the information I provided two months previously.   It took me about ten minutes to do the fact checking that Veazey should have done in 2015.   Mr Poe attends City Council meetings on Tuesdays and manages to meet the deadline for publication in the Wednesday paper.

On January 9th, I tried searching the CA archives using the publication dates of the missing pieces,  and what seemed like otherwise full issues were found.  I tried searching other candidate bios, also successfully.  I tried loading every CA article in my browser bookmarks and history.   I only found one other saved link which would not load, a January 2015 article about how Boyd recently moved into District 7.  I was unable to find a single Boyd 2015 candidate profile remaining on the Web, from any publication, although there was a 2014 profile from his County Commission run.

Boyd’s Linkedin profile, which mentioned his bogus degrees, has also been removed from public view since November.   It was changed in September, after TREC notified him of the case against him, to remove the false realtor claim.   It still contained a falsehood, that he had been a Council member continuously from 2011 to 2016, when it was removed.

I singled out the Commercial Appeal for criticism, because they published a fake bio of Berlin Boyd which subsequently has disappeared.   This is because I was in possession of contemporary screen grabs of bogus Boyd information and could verify that the information was there before it was removed.   I do not know if other publications also printed false Boyd information, other than what I documented in Chapter 1.

The rest of the Memphis media – the Flyer, the Daily News and the TV stations, also received information proving that his Realtor claims were false.  They chose not to publish it in 2015, and again when it was shared with them in January 2017.

Why is Boyd-related material disappearing from the record?   Why does The Commercial Appeal selectively lose Boyd material to their archive problem?   Why do the entire Memphis media remain silent on Boyd’s bogus bio and involvement in the day care frauds?  Is there a cover-up in progress?

Updated 2/13/2016:  TREC announced on February 10th that they had voted to close the case against Boyd.
We also learned that the 1978 Consent Decree between ACLU and City of Memphis forbids City of Memphis officials to “disseminate damaging, derogatory, false … information about any person”, like what Boyd said about me in his response to TREC .