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TIMES EDITORIAL: State isn’t as open as it should be

Posted on Tuesday, September 25, 2012 at 4:08 pm

We would like to make a suggestion to Department of Intellectual Developmental Disabilities commissioner James Henry – give the answers the taxpayers deserve.

The recent decision by Henry to terminate the contract of supported-living disability agency Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep is perplexing. Henry terminated the contract for “convenience” and not for cause on Sept. 14.

But as we start picking through the fine details, something isn’t adding up.

Henry told us that the state tries to avoid terminating a contract with cause because then the state would “have to prove its cause.” Isn’t that the standard for American civilization? Innocent until proven guilty. Sure, the state has the right, as contractually written, to terminate these types of contracts for convenience and it is perfectly legal … and shady.

Since March of 2011, Henry has only terminated three contracts. All for convenience. Why is this allowed to happen? If the state is right and has a just reason to make this decision then a cause should be provided. And yes, the state should have to prove its case in court. Otherwise it appears as if the case is weak or, even worse, not factual.

If the state is correct, taxpayers have a right to know what exactly was going on. It isn’t Mr. Henry’s job to protect Joyce Harris (owner/operator of Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep) as he let on when he told us that going to court for a contract terminated for cause could be damaging for an individual. He said that not speaking specifically about this situation. After all, these operations are funded by TennCare.

The scores levied on a recent Quality Assurance Survey are cause for concern, also.

Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep scored a 42 in 2011 for a “fair” rating. Scores for a “fair” rating range from 38-46. In 2012, the agency scored a 36 for “significant concerns.” Scores for “significant concerns” range from 28-36.

But the agency actually scored the same or better in all areas of the survey except for the final two areas: provider capabilities and qualifications, and administrative authority and financial accountability. In 2011, the agency scored a four and a six in those two categories, respectively. In 2012, it was scored a zero in both areas.

Those poor scores in 2012 reveal one of two things: Harris’ qualifications have somehow become less from one year to the next, or a mistake was made.

The state owes answers, for our convenience.