We have another Authorization of Agency case to share, this time that of Dan Rosson, against whom Memphis Animal Services, in collaboration with City Chief Operating Officer Doug McEwen, have created an AoA. Once again, the City has used AoA to silence a political opponent.
AoA and the City Blacklist.
Authorization of Agency first came to public attention when the City’s Blacklist was published on half a dozen AoA forms. Placement on Jim Strickland’s AoA was purportedly in retaliation for a December 19th Die-In action at Strickland’s, but it contained over forty activists’ names, far more than the ten or so protesters at that action. The list was correctly interpreted as a City action against a list of activists which MPD was managing in contravention of the 1978 Kendrick Consent Decree. The ACLU took the City and MPD to court and won.
AoA used against Zoo critics.
We publish some research on Authorization of Agency, compiling almost 1,700 AoA records obtained from MPD via Open Records Request. While 84.9% of the AoA victims were African Americans victims of police racism, a few, featuring Hunter Demster, Maureen Spain and myself were clearly in retaliation by the Zoo and MPD for harmless political speech. In my case, I was on two AoAs, one issued days after my 2016 arrest at the Zoo, which was judged by the courts to be a wrongful arrest, dismissed and expunged. My second Zoo AoA was illegally created by forging my name to an existing, pre-signed AoA with Hunter Demster, after we uneventfully visited the Zoo. Again, this was an act of political retaliation, supported by MPD files collected in violation of Kendrick.
MPD working for private employer with AoA.
Last week, we wrote about Rodney Fisher’s AoA at DHL/Nike. In this case, Mr. Fisher’s employer used MPD to inform him that he had been fired, in retaliation for political speech at his place of employment. The MPD Lieutentant Colonel who ordered the patrolman to inform Mr. Fisher was quoted as saying he had been targeted for non-existent “threats” made via social media, indicating that Mr. Fisher’s first amendment speech on political subjects had been investigated, and that a social media search had been performed by MPD.
New: Dan Rosson’s AoA
Now, we have a new AoA of concern, against animal activist and dog rescue volunteer, Dan Rosson. In this case, city employees at Memphis Animal Shelter and City Chief Operating Officer, Doug McGowan, were behind the retaliatory use of AoA.
Dan Rosson was a long-time volunteer at Memphis Animal Services. He was a dog foster, caring for shelter dogs at his home, and performing various tasks at the shelter. He photographed dogs and helped document their temperaments among other valuable services that saved money for the City and the lives of many dogs scheduled for euthanasia.
Mr Rosson recounts an incident at a Collierville vet, when a dog, which had been secretly labeled as potentially vicious by MAS. attacked another dog. Rosson subsequently, at an April 2018 MAS advisory board meeting, called for volunteers to be warned about dogs labeled as problematic. Mr Rosson, in the following months, also shared a long list of administrative issues at MAS that he wanted addressed.
On February 13th 2019 Mr Rosson posted on Facebook about some critically ill pups who needed urgent veterinary treatment. He had been banned from transporting animals and no-one else was available to drive the pups to the vet.
Mr Rosson, as a proponent of the humane treatment of animals, was upset at the unnecessary suffering caused by the delay in the treatment of the canines.
On February 14th, Mr Rosson circulated a petition to volunteers and others, and engaged in first amendment protected speech critical of the City administration of MAS. The petition asked the City to promote due process and prevent First Amendment abuse by MAS officials, naming MAS director Alexis Pugh.
On February 18th, Mr Rosson posted that City Chief Operating Officer Doug McGowan had allegedly called Rosson’s former employer, University of Tennessee. Mr Rosson is retired from UT but had availed of the customary policy of allowing retirees to continue using their UT email. UT canceled Mr Rosson’s email account with resultant chilling effect on his ability to engage in free speech on this issue.
On the 20th, Mr Rosson received some Open Records Requests information from the City attempting to clarify the MAS policies on administering volunteers and asking for records on his own case, and the petition was delivered to the Mayor and City Council. That was the day the AoA was signed by Alexis Pugh.
On February 21st Mr Rosson was informed that he would be arrested if he set foot at MAS and was informed of other charges made by Pugh against him. These additional charges might constitute illegal acts but were not recorded (as sometimes happens) as marginal notes on the AoA. This suggests that MPD was maintaining other documents relating to Mr Rosson. This implies the existence of an investigation, which, being likely to uncover political information relating to Mr Rosson’s communications with the City and MAS, should have been approved by Police Director Rallings pursuant to the Kendrick Consent Decree, which had been well aired in Federal court by this time.
The accusations made by MAS management, if they could be substantiated, should have resulted in a police investigation. Mr Rosson has not been charged with any offense relating to alleged incidents at MAS.
We believe that Mr Rosson’s case is an clear example of AoA being used by MPD to harass political opponents of the City, which is a pattern we have been seeing lot of.
Note on Authorization of Agency.
If you are told, by MPD or property management, that you will be arrested if you set foot on a given property, ask if you are on an AoA.
If you are on an AoA, you can get the document for free via the City Open Records portal. You need to specify a date range, which should be a few days before and after the date you are informed. You need the address of the premised, and also the MPD precinct and ward in which it is located, which you can look up in the link.
Sometimes AoAs are placed without informing the victim. In this case you find out about it at some later point, when you visit the premises. In that case, figure out when the AoA was placed and straddle that date in your open records request.
Share your AoA adventures with us. If you feel that the AoA is the result of an MPD investigation not approved by the Director, or if its deficient due process is being used to threaten or intimidate you, or to impede your constitutional rights, contact the MPD Court Monitor. Read our AoA information. If you are arrested for trespass on an unposted location without being given notice to depart, share this information with your attorney.
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 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.
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.