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