published Tuesday, August 9th, 2011

Parents question TEAM leader’s company

by Chris Carroll
The TEAM Centers Inc. is a private nonprofit organization with an office at 1000 Third St. in Chattanooga that handles evaluation and assessment of people with developmental disabilities.
The TEAM Centers Inc. is a private nonprofit organization with an office at 1000 Third St. in Chattanooga that handles evaluation and assessment of people with developmental disabilities.
Photo by Alex Washburn.
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The executive who is closing the key clinical program at TEAM Centers Inc. also heads a for-profit corporation that employs speech therapists, occupational therapists and physical therapists — some of the same positions he says he’s unable to fill at TEAM before he shuts down the program Thursday.

One parent whose child was treated by TEAM, a nonprofit that tests, evaluates and studies intellectually disabled Tennesseans, said she didn’t know what to believe.

“It’s almost like he wanted [TEAM] to die,” said Sandy Lusk, whose autistic son is a patient at TEAM. “It reeks of privatization.”

TEAM interim Executive Director Peter Charman did not return a detailed message requesting comment, but TEAM board President Kaye Foust characterized Charman’s Employers Health Management Corp. as completely separate from TEAM.

She said its therapists “do not have the expertise to treat any people who have developmental disabilities.”

“It’s for sports- and work-related injuries,” Foust said. “There’s nothing sinister going on here.”

On its most recent annual report, Charman listed the corporation’s principal office address as 1000 E. Third St., Suite 100 — the same address as TEAM.

Several calls to Employers Health Management Corp. went unanswered Monday, but an answering machine message narrated by Charman said the staff was either “with patients or on the phone.” The corporation does not appear to have a website.

Last month, the Tennessee Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities discontinued a $774,000 grant that historically funded diagnoses, evaluations and therapy at TEAM.

When the department announced the cut, officials said they would extend a $193,000 grant to allow TEAM to administer treatment through the end of September, giving executives time to track down alternative funding for the remainder of the fiscal year, which ends next June.

Instead, Charman told the Chattanooga Times Free Press he planned to use the $193,000 for severance packages and “shutdown costs” for the program. He announced Aug. 12 as TEAM’s closing date, saying he couldn’t round up any revenue in the time allotted by the state.

State officials said that’s not why they awarded the money and promptly canceled the partial grant, but later they gave in to a strong advocacy campaign from legislators and parents of TEAM’s patients. Tennessee Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Commissioner Jim Henry last week told the Times Free Press he would reinstate the grant for a year to give TEAM time to find alternative revenue sources.

But Charman refused the money, saying the state’s last-minute offer came late because too many TEAM employees already had accepted other jobs elsewhere.

Tax records show Charman made $71,737 as TEAM’s interim executive director in fiscal year 2009-10, which ended last June. At the same time, Employers Health Management Corp. reported $150,000 in “annual sales,” according to Dun & Bradstreet, a company that tracks businesses. The time frame for the Dun & Bradstreet report could not be verified.

In 2009-10, TEAM depended on public grants for 99.49 percent of its funding — meaning little to no actual outside fundraising — despite receiving progressively less grant money from the state in almost every year since 2005, tax records show.

Charman created Employers Health Management Corp. in 1998, state records show. He became interim executive director at TEAM last year.

Foust said it’s a misconception that TEAM doesn’t want the state’s money, which is only reimbursed after the nonprofit provides clinical help.

“We have to find staff to provide the services,” Foust said, “and we don’t have them yet.”

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sandyonsignal said...

How many sports related therapists have a speech and language pathologist? All three of those pathologists are necessary for autism, don't know about skiing accidents, football injuries, etc...

Right now, Team has lost 22 workers. Some members of the board are actively seeking speech and occupational therapists, wonder if they might ask Peter if he has a stack of resumes for his other company. Since he is working out of the 1000 East 3rd St. they don't have far to get them.

August 9, 2011 at 6:20 a.m.
328Kwebsite said...

This stinks. I don't believe the denials, but I think it's entirely within the scope of what we expect to see that they're incompetent enough to have lost essential staff. This is totally in line with local initiatives depriving essential services to the mentally ill. They probably didn't realize this one would be a PR nightmare. Most of the time mental health and neurological services have been cut off, our local people haven't said or done anything. Somehow, someone will find a way to exploit this for profit.

August 9, 2011 at 7:18 a.m.
sandyonsignal said...

Things that raise eyebrows:

a) state gives Team money to continue treatment an extra 3 months, instead, Charmin and the board agree to use the money for severance packages. State takes away money.

b) Employees start contacting friends for references, etc... then an announcement is made they are shutting a 50 year old clinic established by the Hamilton County Medical Board and the City's forefathers to help and diagnose the special needs population.

c) Parents react in disbelief. Contact Team and Charmin on what to do. Charmin and others encourage us to do what we can to get them funding. Legislators and parents of all parties, backgrounds, etc.. come together and pressure Commissioner Henry to give the money at least for a year and everyone will work hard on fundraising and helping Team.

d) Legislators are successful. Henry re-instates $774,000 grant.

e) Peter Charmin won't return calls or speak to the parents. No thank you or anything from Board members of Executive Director for helping save TEAM with $774,000.

f) Peter Charmin tells Times Free Press they are shutting down anyway because they can't find therapist to work at Team.

g) Parents contact friends and therapists, get responses like crazy from their site.

e) Times Free Press uncovers Charmin owns a therapy company which happens to have speech, physical and occupational therapists. Kay Foust, board President, says nothing sinister they can't work at Team because it works with a different type of client.

What will be the next shoe to drop? Why did the board sit and do nothing while every year their public support was slashed? Why did they not even attempt to get legislators, parents and the community engaged? Why didn't they try to find alternative fundraising? Why did they let things get to such a point?

Team is part of our city's rich history. It does a service that is badly needed for those with special needs. Autism rates are rising at an exponential rate, we need more help, not less. It isn't for Team and the Board to destroy. Team belongs to the community not them.

August 9, 2011 at 7:19 a.m.
wantingthetruth said...

I am saddened that the Team board is still saying they have to replace clinical staff before being able to continue to provide clinical services when the developmental pediatrician, clinical director, two counselors, and the support staff agreed to stay on in at least a part-time capacity. Team clinicians and other staff members are committed to keeping Team open but have not been asked to stay.

August 9, 2011 at 7:28 a.m.
sandyonsignal said...

Drs. Rubin and Weigle are the reasons parents fought so hard to keep Team open, those two are the clinic. People like Alyce and Melanie are an integral part, too. Everyone loves all the workers. The Board and E.D. are ruining TEAM.

August 9, 2011 at 7:38 a.m.
sandyonsignal said...

Thanks to Chris Carroll for his excellent coverage on Team.

August 9, 2011 at 8:02 a.m.
mountainlaurel said...

TFP Article Says: "The executive who is closing the key clinical program at TEAM Centers Inc. also heads a for-profit corporation that employs speech therapists, occupational therapists and physical therapists — some of the same positions he says he’s unable to fill at TEAM before he shuts down the program Thursday. . . On its most recent annual report, Charman listed the corporation’s principal office address as 1000 E. Third S., Suite 100 — the same address as TEAM."

Good grief. . . This scenario is unbelievable. . . One can only wonder what part of the legal definition of “conflict of interest” do these allegedly educated politicians, CEOs, Executive Directors, and community leaders in the State of Tennessee not understand?

First, there is the matter of Tennessee's Governor Haslam appointing a CEO of a huge for-profit corporation that makes big profits from activities that includes services to the intellectually and developmentally disabled population to be Commissioner of the State of Tennessee’s Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities – a department that decides which contractors serving intellectually and developmentally disabled persons will and will not receive contracts paid for by Tennessee’s tax payers.

And now, there is the matter of a group of community leaders serving on the Board of Directors of a non profit corporation, which receives money from the State of Tennessee taxpayers to provide services to the intellectually and developmentally disabilities population, hiring a for-profit business owner to serve as Executive Director of their non-profit corporation as he simultaneously operates his for-profit business from their non-profit location. Dare we ask who pays the rent? And how does the Board document the E.D.'s time on the job?

August 9, 2011 at 9:02 a.m.
sandyonsignal said...

I don't think it is legal to run a private business in a publicly supported clinic.

August 9, 2011 at 10:08 a.m.
mountainlaurel said...

SandyOnSignal said: "I don't think it is legal to run a private business in a publicly supported clinic."

In most states, recipients of public monies originating from the State are required by law to identify any potential “conflict of interest” scenario, but in the State of Tennessee who knows - conflict of interest scenarios seem to be a way of life. Anyway, it is definitely the case with any contract involving federal monies, and there is always a clause in the agency’s contract with the government prohibiting “conflict of interest” scenarios.

August 9, 2011 at 11:02 a.m.
mountainlaurel said...


In addition, to their legal contractual “conflict of interest” obligations, non-profits almost always include their “conflict of interest” policies in the agency’s bylaws:

"A conflict of interest is defined as an actual or perceived interest by a staff or Board member in an action that results in, or has the appearance of resulting in, personal, organizational, or professional gain. Officers and members are obligated to always act in the best interest of the organization. This obligation requires that any officer or member, in the performance of organization duties, seek only the furtherance of the organization mission. At all times, officers and board members are prohibited from using their job title or the organization's name or property, for private profit or benefit."

August 9, 2011 at 11:33 a.m.
riverstronghold said...

Just thinking while typing...maybe all way off base...but -

Conflict of interest questions could be queried to the State partially in the context of the division of time/effort question. This could be interesting along the lines of how much of the director's time was contractually obligated under the terms of the grant and thereby paid for by State funds, and how much of his time did the State receive, and how is that documented?

The Office of Inspector General investigates TennCare fraud. In the event that some of these billed clinical services charges were paid for by TennCare, and if the Director were not providing the level of effort committed to by grants awards documents... (perhaps as evidenced by the unaccounted-for effort being sufficient to be able to operate another fairly good sized business with x employees and y operating costs, etc., "co-located" in space paid for by whom? the State?) then... although it's not as sexy as doctor "shopping," "doctor chopping" might still appear fraudulent. Or perhaps malfeasant, in failing to provide services and failing to shepherd TEAM while instead potentially profiting personally in some fashion from the diversion of effort. Or maybe i'm just a cup short of coffee and exasperated by this failure of leadership and administration across the board, shall we say, which is where the responsibility for governance belongs, if there is any. Looks perhaps remotely possible. Tragic and horrible in any event.

August 9, 2011 at 12:08 p.m.
citizeninuproar said...

I am outraged about the hatred and accusations of this so called corruption scam against one man named Peter Charmane or I mean Charman. You could at least spell his name correctly. Mr.Charman has been accused of some pretty serious charges as fraud, conspiracy, mishandling state funds, shutting down a 50 year old service that helps disabled children so he can staff his private company or to make his hiring pool larger for his private company. These are allegations made by some parents who are angry that the TEAM Center will no longer be able to provide those services due to the cut of state funding. One parent stated that he was using the same building to run his private company and the TEAM Center due to the address being the same. They failed to mention that this company according to records employs one person other than himself and that his company contracted services for Companies on site. So much for the stacking of resumes for one position or that company was operating in the same building as TEAM Center. You all could at least report all of the facts. Maybe he just prefers getting all of his mail at the same address. It seems that TEAM Center has helped thousands of disabled children and adults through the years. They have been quite fortunate to have all of those services offered in one place with the best doctors and therapists around and funded by the state. One parent stated that Hamilton County did not offer services for her disabled child. Another stated that she was promised and angry becuse she had yet received i pad so that her nonverbal child could use to communicate. Well, maybe if you hadn't spent so much time worrying about what others were not doing you would have found that there are other ways to help your child communicate such as using picture cues and a go talk machine. I have seen both of these methods used and proven to be effective. I have been working with disabled children for about 17 years. Their disabliites range from midly impaired to severely and profoundly impaired. I also have a family memeber who is autistic. So I understand some of the frustrations that I have read about in the postings.

August 10, 2011 at 5:54 p.m.
citizeninuproar said...

It is truly heart breaking to see a child that is disabled. However, this is reality and we cannot expect these doctors and therapists to work for free. They have to make a living to provide for their families. Therefore, it seems to reason that the TEAMS Center has to operate as a business even if it's nonprofit business. I even heard a parent refer to Mr.Charman's decision to close the center due to lack of funds to what would Jesus say. Well, let me ask you all the same question. The truth is there are services available for children with disabilities. There is a law in this country. It's called PL 94-142 of the American Disabilities Act, or IDEA which gives every child the right to have a free and appropriate education with the least restrictve environment. If you feel the system is not providing that, then you need to fight for your child's civil rights. The term appropriate to you may not mean the same as the educational system and it may not mean an i pad. The same services are offered within the community that were offered at TEAMS. I hear a sense of entitlement from these postings I have read. That is that same sense if entitlement that has put our country in the financial position that it is in right now. We all see bad things happen to good people for no reason. The devastating tornadoes that killed hundreds, people diagnosed with cancer, fatal accidents, and the lives that were lost to defend our country. Not one of them derserves or asks for it to happen, it just happens. That is life!!

August 10, 2011 at 6:32 p.m.
mountainlaurel said...

CitizenInUproar said: “Maybe he just prefers getting all of his mail at the same address.”

And you think this makes it OK, CitizenInUproar? If Mr. Charman actually leases a separate suite for his consulting business, why would he place himself and the Team Center at risk by putting his non-profit employers address and suite number on the annual report of his personal for-profit business? Every professional I know fully understands the kind of problems and legal issues this would create. Indeed, the last they would want to do is create any kind scenario that had even the slightest appearance of a “conflict of interest.”

CitizenInUproar said: “I hear a sense of entitlement from these postings I have read. That is that same sense if entitlement that has put our country in the financial position that it is in right now.”

Shame, shame, shame, on you, CitizenInUproar. If you truly feel compelled to give a sermon on individuals who feel they deserve special treatment and entitlements, I suggest you begin by focusing on the greedy financial sector that is directly responsible for the economic disaster that we are now facing. Indeed, you could preach for hours on the subject of political corruption and the number of politicians who pushed so hard to eliminate the kind of rules and regulations that enabled Wall Street, the bankers, and the financial investment sector to rip off their fellow Americans. And then, of course, there are the lies of the Bush/Administration along with the costly Middle Eastern wars they created on behalf of the oil and defense industries.

CitizenInUproar said: “There are services available for children with disabilities.”

Surely, you understand not all children with disabilities have the same disability, CitizenInUproar? And has it not occurred to you the TEAM Center’s program activities were developed because there was an urgent need in this region – a need that had not been addressed previously? It seems to me the parents of these children with autism have made it rather clear the needs of their children were not being adequately addressed prior to the development of Chattanooga’s Autism Center – a project coordinated through the Team Center.

August 11, 2011 at 12:01 p.m.
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