Originally created 02/24/03

Inmates in charge?



What's going on at the Community Mental Health Center of East Central Georgia? With all the feudin', fussin' and fightin' that's going on among the administrators, board of directors and others, it's hard to see how the patients are getting the quality care they're entitled to.

If it weren't for that sad fact, the clownish goings-on out there might even be good for a laugh or two.

Nearly every day something new happens. The latest tiff was Wednesday over a meeting canceled by Dr. Nancy Williamson, chairwoman of the board that governs the facility. A faction of the 11-member board tried to meet anyway, but they didn't have a quorum.

However, that didn't stop Dr. John Cheatham, one of the three board members who wanted to meet, from charging Williamson with trying to lock them out.

The good doctor said Williamson "lost her mind." Someone out there certainly seems to have. The center's finances, management and contractual practices are being investigated by the FBI and three state agencies, including the attorney general's office.

It all started when Sharon Haire, one of the center's top administrators, wrote an anonymous letter last month to Dr. Williamson and two other board members alleging fraud, corruption and cronyism at the facility.

Ten days later board members hired attorney John West to represent them in the investigations and launched a probe of their own that resulted in the center's executive director, Mike Brockman, and its administrator, Jim Points, being put on paid leave.

Dr. Cheatham and several other board members believe Brockman and Points are getting the shaft. The canceled board meeting was originally called to discuss Haire's status at the center.

Things began to turn bad for Haire when she admitted to Williamson that she authored the January letter. Soon after, she was demoted and her pay was cut. Then, on Tuesday, acting director Philip Horton told her she was being fired, ostensibly for giving an employee an untrue evaluation.

The public will have to wait until the various investigations are completed before finding out the extent of the problems out there, but no one has to wait to figure out that what happened to Haire proves that something stinks at the mental health center.

Well-run organizations with nothing to hide don't punish and get rid of their whistle-blowers; they thank them and learn from them. Haire's dismissal is a sure sign that the more we learn about the mental health center scandal, the worse it's going to smell.