Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Tangled Web of The Paradise Center Scandal: Now With Email Documentation

Oh what a tangled web gets weaved, when someone who shouldn't, tries to deceive.

Earlier today I tried to explain the Paradise Center Scandal and the nefarious dealings of the MHMR-TC agency run by a man named Jim McDermott.

One aspect of the Paradise Center Scandal has been a long time attempt by the MHMR agency to takeover the Paradise Center, which is an independent, consumer run, non-profit organization.

The attempted takeover has been going on for quite some time, as you can see from the emails below, dating from late 2010. As the Paradise Center asserted its rights, MHMR and its bullycrats, under the direction of CEO, Jim McDermott, grew increasingly despotic, until the coup d'tat, which took place on February 17, 2011, with the physical takeover, by MHMR, of the Paradise Center's operation.

Read the emails below and you will get a clearer idea of what MHMR and Jim McDermott has put the Paradise Center through. First you will read an email from Linda Groom, she being the Board Chairperson of Paradise Center, Inc., in which she asks McDermott to explain his and MHMR's actions.

This is followed by Jim McDermott's obfuscating reply, followed by Linda Groom taking Jim McDermott through this issue, step by step....

From: Linda Groom
Sent: Thursday, October 14, 2010 12:14 PM
To: Jim McDermott
Cc: Susan C. Garnett; Sonja Gaines; Jennifer L. Neumann
Subject: Paradise Center

Dr. McDermott,

I am extremely upset that the same topic has come up again regarding Paradise Center's status as a non-profit.

I met with Jennifer Neumann and Teresa Davis on Friday, Oct. 8 at Paradise Center to understand her request to view Paradise Center's checking account documents.  I was shocked when she told me that Sonja had no idea that Paradise Center has a checking account.  She said Sonja has expressed concerns that she is "over this program" and wanted to make sure there are "checks and balances".

Once again, we are visiting the exact same topic that has been settled over 14 years ago.  Paradise Center is a non-profit organization, NOT a program of MHMR.

In my 12 years of association with Paradise Center and as past President of the local and state chapters of NAMI, I have never had an organization come in and demand to see check statements and check stubs.  This is an intrusion and not a legal requirement by non-profits.  We can make reasonable accommodations to allow them to see our 990, which we showed her. We can also provide generated reports at our location upon request.

Besides electing officers and establishing by-laws, one of the first acts of this new organization was the opening of a checking account to handle donations and to pay  expenses such as for program activities and supplies for the snack bar.  This is a consumer-run organization and the checking account is, also.  The only designated signers on the account are now and have always been consumers.  They hire and pay for a CPA who advises them and files their IRS 990 each year.

If Sonja wants to know how the "program" money is being managed, she should ask your accounting department since the ongoing foundational grant from MHMRTC is fully managed by MHMR.  We do not touch any of it.

Last year's grant from Visions, which I understand is a foundation and auxiliary of MHMRTC, has been accounted for and reported as required.  If there is something else they require, they should ask us.  We've explained to Nikki Hatley that at this time, our consumer-run board doesn't have the capability to present detailed budgets, from last year, mid-year budget analysis, and a projected budget.  I would think that the Visions Board and Nikki Hatley knew that when they gave this grant to Paradise Center, they were giving it to a consumer-run organization.  If they wanted to know if we had all those types of capabilities to produce reports, then they should have asked before giving us the grant.  At this point we will not be accepting anymore grants from Visions.  Their website states that they give money to "at risk" programs of MHMR.  And, since Paradise Center is NOT  a program of MHMR, we do not qualify.  Apparently, this was an oversight of everyone involved.

Do we need to have a meeting about this?  Or is it something you can handle internally to inform your staff of Paradise Center's legal standing as a non-profit organization?

I look forward to your prompt reply,

Linda Groom,
Board Chairperson of Paradise Center, Inc.


From: Jim McDermott <James.McDermott@mhmrtc.org>
Subject: RE: Paradise Center
To: "Linda Groom"
Date: Monday, October 25, 2010, 5:56 PM

As you know, I have always supported and appreciated the fact that our center maintains a consumer run program.  Paradise Center has provided valued services and supports that have made a tremendous impact on the individuals who participate in the program on a regular basis.

While we had hoped 14 years ago that Paradise Center would generate enough independent financial support to become self-sufficient, that has not happened.  MHMRTC continues to fully fund the operations of Paradise Center with state and local dollars at a budgeted cost of approximately $150,000 per year.  In Fiscal Year 2010, in fact, Paradise Center’s actual expenses were approximately $173,00 resulting in a budget in the red.  In addition, the Paradise Center staff are MHMRTC employees and enjoy all the benefits associated with being MHMRTC employees.  MHMRTC must provide the supervision and oversight necessary to manage this program, as it does for all other programs and staff.

I am aware that the board of the Paradise Center 501 (c) 3 continues to raise funds for the purpose of having activities at the Center.  I think this is an important piece of the Center and I want that to continue.  However, as the program’s funding source, we will need to have full information about the funds available for Paradise Center—MHMRTC’s funds and any other funds.

MHMRTC has to assure that this, and all programs, are properly managed and utilize appropriate accounting practices.  Lack of adequate oversight can put the agency and all of its programs at risk.

I expect the employees of Paradise Center just as any other employees of the Mental Health division to adhere to the direction of the Chief of MH Services, Sonja Gaines.

For 22 years I have strongly supported the existence of Paradise Center.  I believe that we have proven our support by our continued financial support, facility maintenance, facility expansion, and facility improvements.  I know that without this support, Paradise Center would have struggled and might not exist today.

I appreciate your inquiry and am happy to discuss further with you if needed.

Jim McDermott, Ph.D.
Chief Executive Officer
MHMR of Tarrant County
(817) 569-4508

From: Linda Groom 
Subject: RE: Paradise Center
To: "Jim McDermott" <James.McDermott@mhmrtc.org>
Cc: sonja.gaines@mhmrtc.org
Date: Friday, December 3, 2010, 8:53 PM

Dr. McDermott:

I apologize for not acknowledging your email response sooner.  I've had various personal issues that prevented me from thanking you for your well-formed response and statements.

On behalf of the Board of Directors (called "the Resource Board" in our Charter and By-laws) of Paradise Center, Inc. I am writing to express grave concerns about the actions by MHMRTC and its representatives in recent weeks that indicate knowledge and authorization from you (and the statements in your email) as the head of this governmental agency (or unit of government).  It is our conclusion that you all know exactly what and why you all have chosen to adopt this new view and to pursue its related and aggressive course of action.

 We are doing our best to be true to our duties as directors and guardians of a reputable non-profit organization  falling under the legal classification of a public charity. While we have often expressed appreciation to you for your support and to MHMRTC for its annual in-kind "foundational grants" and long-term cooperation, we have never at any point relinquished our true nature as an autonomous organization, both in daily practice and in terms of our formal standing with the state and the IRS.

It is clear that your statements and the actions of your colleagues contradict who and what we are as an organization.  We hope that there is some kind of mistake on the part of MHMRTC.  We do not seek or want conflict, but it appears that now might be the right time to clear up the serious questions that have lingered for many years about the true nature and relationship between Paradise Center, Inc. and our "supporting organization", which has resulted in confusion and has limited our growing organization from taking the steps necessary to expand our funding base, our physical facility and assets, and most importantly to expand our reach in helping the thousands of  adults suffering from disabling mental illnesses in Tarrant county.

We share your emphasis on financial accountability and will gladly discuss that subject at the appropriate time.  For now, we offer this preliminary list of pertinent facts as we understand them based on our reading of our charter/by-laws, records, and relevant literature.  Out of these basic facts we are firmly asserting our organization's legal rights, authority, and responsibilities.

1. Paradise Center is, and has been, an autonomous public charity/non-profit org. ever since 1998 when Dr.M. and his team made all the necessary legal applications to form it as such---to take the place of the fairly costly MHMRTC program called Opportunity House.  MHMRTC knew exactly what it was doing in pursuing such a serious legal step.

2. Paradise Center is, and has been, representing itself to the public and behaving in all aspects of operations as an autonomous organization (e.g. annual tax filings, website, brochures, written and spoken communications, etc.) with a legally required Board of Directors providing oversight over its operations and employees.  MHMRTC unilaterally designed this organizational status and structure of Paradise Center, Inc. and has treated P.C. as such an autonomous organization ever since the official incorporation in 1998 (over 12 years ago)---up until now.  Questions or problems related to this arrangement can be best provided by MHMRTC.

3. MHMRTC has insisted on the funding arrangement, which places all controls in their hands.  Thus all responsibilities and accountabilities are squarely in their hands as well since MHMRTC unilaterally designed and chose this arrangement.

4. Paradise Center, Inc. interviewed, then formally hired our current director Teresa Davis, who has carried out her job under the authority and oversight of our Board of Directors.  MHMRTC did not interview, hire, or supervise Teresa as one of its employees.  The HR services it provides for our employees is again part of MHMRTC's choice as the "supporting organization" to control all of the money it has ever granted to Paradise Center as part of its package of financial support that the IRS classifies as "in-kind donations". Any questions or problems related to this arrangement can be best explained by MHMRTC since it  designed and insisted on using this particular funding/supporting arrangement.

5.  This new and shocking claim of ownership of an autonomous organization as merely one of its own agency programs designed to provide an essential (and maybe required of MHMRTC by the state or other funders) service for mental health consumers and the right to supervise an employee of said autonomous organization contradicts P.C.'s charter and applicable laws.  Moreover this contradicts the facts, custom, and history of how the two entity related to one another and how Paradise Center, Inc. is recognized by the public and certain entities.

6.  Paradise Center, Inc. will defend its organizational and legal integrity as required by its charter and applicable laws.  MHMRTC knows exactly what it's doing in choosing to pursue its current path and should be prepared to answer questions and/or accept any consequences that might arise from this choice..

7. The natural questions that arose from MHMRTC's current course of action and certain statements of facts include the following (not exhaustive list):

    (A) IF Paradise Center, Inc. is in fact a genuine "MHMRTC program" like its dozens of other programs, why has there been no oversight or supervision over the "program" and its long-time director for over a whole decade? That's over ten straight years or 120+ straight months of no appropriate interest, knowledge, or accountability. Not even knowing that Paradise Center, Inc. has a checking account in its name.

    (B) What is the actual reason--not the clumsily devised pretext of some vague "spending beyond the budget"-- for this new found interest in the ongoing operation and leadership of Paradise Center, Inc.? If given adequate information, maybe it's something we as an organization can do to help our supporter and partner MHMRTC in this situation.

    (C) Is the way that MHMRTC has related and interacted, financially and administratively, with Paradise Center, Inc. over these many years the accepted standard practice and policy of MHMRTC? If so, please provide supporting facts.

    (D)  If not, who is responsible and accountable for such a gross mismanagement of a governmental agency program that directly impacts the wellbeing of hundreds of adults living with the most debilitating types of mental illnesses (or brain diseases, as some prefer)?

    (E) How was it possible that this massive neglect of control and oversight over almost two million dollars (based on the cumulative dollar amounts MHMRTC has reported as having been expended on Paradise Center, Inc. over the dozen plus years) of hard-earned taxpayer money allowed to take place at all?

We have many other related questions and issues but will wait to deal with them later.  For now, we suggest you all review our charter and your own previous statements and representations in formulating a response to the questions and issues we've raised. Choosing not to respond in a constructive way will be interpreted as agreement with the facts we've presented.  Not providing constructive answers to these critical questions will have its own set of meanings for different people.

We, as the legal guardians of our records, will be glad to send over a copy of our charter if for some reason you all or your legal counsel does not have a copy on file. 

We, as the legally recognized fiduciaries and Directors of Paradise Center, Inc. once again express in the strongest terms our grave concern for the recent claims and representations by MHMRTC.  Based on the same factual premise, we have asked our trusted and capable director of almost ten years, Teresa Davis, to respectfully not follow the unilateral orders by your colleague for her to attend a meeting for the stated purpose of receiving "supervision" and "expectations" as that normally done with an employee of MHMRTC.

Our directive to her remains until we receive from you/MHMRTC reasonable and realistic written expressions to support this new and aggressive assertion of authority over our director that (a) clearly violates our organization's autonomy and (b) clearly usurps the legal and customary roles of our Board as directors and guardians of the legal and organizational integrity of Paradise Center, Inc.

Thank you for your consideration.  We look forward to amicable and constructive discussions and resolutions regarding this import matter with you, your executive team (as in 2008), or if appropriate with your Board of Directors itself.

Linda Groom,
President of the Board of Directors ("Resource Board") of Paradise Center, Inc. a consumer-run organization and public charity as defined by IRS code 501(c)3 .


Wow!! said...

Wow! Wow!! Wow!!!

No wonder that Theresa lady and all those people were so adament in asserting their rights and integrity.

What's your exit strategy now Jim McDermott, Sonja Gaines, and all your troopers?

I think several different entities would have a real strong interest in all this.

Wow!! Wow!!

CatsPaw said...

Oh, my my. You go, Linda Groom!

This just gets curiouser and curiouser.

Where is the #@^%$*! Startlegram? Somebody might win a #@^%$*! Pulitzer if they weren't too chickenshit to take this on.


We have a real newspaper around here? Presently?

I recall there was a pretty good local newspaper in FW. Probably a bigger and better one than the El Paso Times, which a friend just told me had just done an expose of their local MHMR's crooked CEO and his puppets the Board of Trustees.

Some eeery similarities between the two government agencies. You aware of this, Mr. Durangotexas???

Anonymous said...

I spoke with a television reporter last night out front of the Rainbow lounge. They were covering the settlement regarding the raid.

I mentioned to him and said " since you helped get this settled what about you helping the paradise center? The reporter said "what?, he had heard nothing about Paradise Center or Teresa Davis or any issues surrounding it!"

Sounds like you didn't cover the media very well at the beginning of this! Now this is "old news and pretty much settled."

X-Detective on MHMR scandal said...

Anonymous 11:27 AM, we had sent out press releases, emailed, and called all the tv news stations, and print media. Only Chris Hawes of WFAA and Jeff Prince of the FW Weekly came out.

Apparently MHMR's PR machinery and political allies in the County Commissioners Court, mental health advocacy organizations, and even connections with local media had managed to convince everyone that there was not a story worth reporting since it was "just a personnel issue".

Yeah, like Jeffrey Dhamer's chasing down the terrified and naked teen was "just a domestic spat". Or Watergate (showing my age here, kids) was just a little burglary.

But this superficial view is perfectly understandable since, as an MHMR Con has said, "who are people going to believe, the powerful ceo of 22 years at a $100M+ government agency OR a small group of 'mental patients' and 'nut cases'"???

Believe the normal white man Dhamer or a dark-skinned Loatian immigrant with limited English and cultural skills? Jeffrey could have been a PhD., and even CEO of something.

We can see the "answer" to that rhetorical question.

HOWEVER, this is not old news by any means. In fact it is A SCANDAL that's attracting the attention of the right people and entities. The so called media can go with the MHMR spin and look foolish if they so choose. But the truth is the truth.

And Justice will prevail, even if the info-tainment media don't report it. Because our CAUSE is JUST.

It's actually better that the so called mainstream media chose to ignore this public interest matter because no way can they fairly and fully do what this citizen-journalist is doing in their 1-2 minute snippets, most of it probably hogged up by MHMR and their many allies and co-conspirators.

TRUTH and JUSTICE do not get "old" or "settled", NOT when the perps are given a free pass.

I worked as a detective, and I would not have been much of a one if I took that view. I and my colleagues got the greatest satisfaction from uncovering an "old" case and shocking the perps who had thought they were so smart (even PhD smart) and so clever that they had gotten "pretty much settled". Loved the looks in their eyes.

And loving the leaked reports of the looks in these MHMR perps' eyes as they realized that the jig is pretty up.

MLK said that justice delayed is justice denied. And that's why people me TRY and TRY, and will not be denied. I hope this little piece "settled" the question of the freshness of this scandal.

Anonymous said...

Dang. I just checked out the MHMR Visions so called 501-c-3 non for profit charity's website (why do they need such a thing anyways, aren't donations to nonprofits like government agencies qualified as tax-deductible?).

It looks like they finally took Paradise Center Inc. off their site and replaced it with the Drop-in Center, whatever the hell that is.

And the donors roll look very interesting, to say the least.

County Judge and Commissioners are big donors and supporters. The County Administrator and his wife, too.


Since he said in his letter that he supported the Paradise Center nonprofit, I wonder how much he and his execs donated to help such a valuable organization?? Any one know?

I just remember feeling so sorry for these folks who would have fundraisers in the heat and in the cold of winter. They worked. Was it because they needed to work to get funds?

If so, why didn't the ceo and his taxpayer funded organization do more to help these poor people and keep them from having to plead for donations and used items for their yard sales?

He sure didn't seem to spare any money in putting on their Opening Doors galas and such for his political buddies. They looked comfortable and relaxed, unlike those sweaty Paradise people and their fund-raisers.

Anonymous said...

Since I have a relative who had helped with the leadership of Paradise and have myself seen their financial reports, I can answer your question.

Jim McDermott, Susan Garnett, Sonja Gaines, Donna Martin, the Trustees, The Commissioner, and the County Executive gave, get ready now...Nothing, zero, jack squat, nada. Well, I do recall some say that one or two of these womwn donated some old a*** furniture and very used clothes BUT THEY MADE SURE THEY GOT THE TAX-DEDUCTION papers. Unlike most people who gave SO MUCH MORE.

Paradise actually costed about $300K+ a year to operate, which made Lord Jim's $130K/year donation of OUR taxes-- not his own money--to Paradise a deceptively small fraction of the actual cost and value of Paradise.

No wonder he wanted to control and manipulate it for his own purposes, with this new scheme being to USE and EXPLOIT them for $600K+ from their business deal with Bravo Health's Medicaid STAR+PLUS (check out their Trustees minutes from last summer for yourself).

Anonymous said...

More and more of the "other side? is deciding that this is "old business". So everything is okey dokey on the other side. So you can just blog to each other !

Anonymous said...

Actually, Anonymous @11;02 AM, people I know who work in and with MHMR staff are saying this is probably the BIGGEST scandal since Jim McDermott's predecessor was busted for stealing money from the agency. AND that the top brass are extremely tense and have been clamping down on any communication with the media or what one caseworker calls "the outside world".

They say that these execs are blaming each other, and the Trustees are trying to make McDermott "fix the mess" he and his execs had created. Apparently, this PhD and his team never expected to encounter any resistance at all. Much less a defiant resistance and a full blown exposure of their dirty ploys.

Nice job and thanks, bloggerman.

P.S. mhmr employees are so fed up with the bullying crap and the mistreatment of the paradise center group and their leaders that many of them are secretly passing on info from the inside, like my friends.

Guilty Pleasure said...

If this is a soap opera, then I'm ready for the next installment. What's up next? I know how it ends, I guess, but how did they get from, "You, come to a meeting!" "NO! You acknowledge us an independent organization first!" To, okay, we're firing your director, who had no say in who met when or even in the emails? Just fill in the gaps, please, and no cliff hangers over the weekend. I love a sympathetic victim, but I'm not convinced yet.

Anonymous said...

Okay, so the CEO of MHMR eneded his letter by saying "I'd be happy to discuss with you further". It looks like the Paradise Center Inc. Board initiated a "discussion" with their letter. Did the PhD man respond to any of the factual statements, assertions, and questions in that compelling letter?

Any one know what happened??

Consumer said...

I came from houston which is much bigger than tar rant county. But I think it is odd that tar rant county is the second highest funded mhmr in the state. Somebody check the numbers at Dhhs, but that's what we always heard. And by the way, we have several nami chapters in the Houston area. If yours in ft worth isn't supporting consumers the way you,d like, start your own chapter!

mha man said...

Houston transplant, the Mani website lists two chapters on Harris county and some in adjacent counties. H!Eris county, like Dallas county have two chapters due to its expansive territory and that alone.

Whole your point about starting our own chapter is well taken, it would New counter productive and really unnecessary IF YHE EXISTING CHAPTER STAYS FAITHFUL TO ITS STATED MISSION ...or it needs to be severed from the national organization and mental health consumer movement if it is not willing to act like nami should.

Anonymous said...

It looks like old McDermott and m.h.m.r. gang are in t.r.o.u.b.l.e.

No wonder they been so defensive and desperately attacking the paradise pros, who of all people should have reasons to be acting like that.

If you ain't guilty, why're you acting like it, MHMR-TC cons?

Get a rope. A long one.

Anonymous said...

McDermott. Has cleared paradise center OUT

Suzette said...

and turned it into a steril mental institution for Bravo and MHMR to get clients to switch from Amerigroup Star+ Medicaid HMO to Bravo Health.

they can $tart billing Medicaid and getting generating profit $tarting May 01, 2011.

the facility is mostly offices and the consumers who still come are forced to sit outside in the heat behind iron fences like dogs at a kennel.

thanks for helping give power and dignity to these folks, jim mcdermott, susan garnett, lynn ellen, sonja gaines, donna massey, trustees, and nami. you guys are a class act.

Robbie M. said...


Anonymous said...

I asked people within both mhmr and pardise inc. and the clear answer was that this arrogant a$$$ saw himself as god and so pretty much let his female execs. use his little lame letter to Linda Groom and the paradise Board as kind of their bible, citing it as sort of their bible. These females were reported embarassed and even humiliated by Ms. davis in their attempts to force her to lie and say that paradise center is just a mhmr "program" and not a independent 501/c/3 nont4profit org.

Them women couldnt handle ms. Davis during long hostyle meetings, sometimes with 2 and 3 of them up ganging up against one person. The big chief got really mad after his deputy lady sonia garnett (??) got her hiney kicked ina meeting right around chrismas time. THATS WHEN THE STATE SEND OUT LETTERS TO MEDICAID PEOPLE THAT BRAVO WAS SUSPENDED FOR 5 MONTS AND EVERYBOSY WAS GOING WITH AMERGROUP MEDICAID PLUS.

Afteer all then failures the ceo dude was freaked out and scared of meeting with ms. Davis so he tried to get the elderly Paradise board president to mett with him....AND HIS LAWYER AND OTHER OF HIS GANG. He need 2-3 other people and lawyer just to meet wioth an old but feisty lady.

The little weenie got despirit and worked with his lawyer and trustees to come up with reason to fire Ms. davis because bravo was getting freaked out too since the suspinsion cost lots of money for them. He gave her a threat about a hour b4 the socalled meeting to make it look like she was deserve to be fired on 02/17/11. On 03/17/11 mhmr caseworkers and nami boards start trying to get peopel to switch over to Bravo hmo.

Theres the scandal from both sides point of views. The scuzzy ceo and his commies must go.

Wesleyan law student said...

I smell ay least two lawsuits coming from this scandal. That's probably when the shallow media pays attention. And the time for sweeping out the garbage in MHMR.

Anonymous said...

Wesleyan law student........You need to remember you are a STUDENT and not a lawyer yet! Leave the lawsuit ideas to the "Men or Women" who are actually lawyers ! LOL Let's see if you can pass the Bar first !!

Wesleyan law student said...

Anonymous, third year law, officer, member of law review. I won't continue, that'd be considered boasting.

Most legal issues arose from real life experiences of the people and thus not that difficult to grasp...even for someone like you, with your inappropriate laughter and all. Remember a person can be a lawyer without attending law school or passing the bar exam. I'll let you try to figure this fact out.

One fact that's not hard to figure out: MHMR needs a competent lawyer, like a year ago.

No worry about passing the bar, more concerned about what level judgeship to clerk for and to move some place where the American Way is still valued and practiced.

The Donald said...


Holy smokes, SOMEONE (S) SHOULD BE FIRED and any license suspended or revoked for this GROSS MISMANAGEMENT and neglect of a VERY BASIC PRACTICE. Not Ms.
Davis, who was likely denied merit pay and other benefits that come good job performance ...in her case it seems like exceptional accomplishment, year after year after year.

Forget bullycrats, these are sorry excuses for plain old bureaucratic performance.