Skip to comments.John Ford-backed law lets doctor practice
Posted on 06/01/2008 6:55:24 PM PDT by SmithL
A psychologist raised in Frayser and trained in South America, Morgan had been rejected twice by the state's psychology licensing board because of his academic record.
But Morgan found a powerful ally in then-state Sen. John Ford, who pushed through legislation that forced regulators to hand Morgan a license to practice, according to an examination by The Commercial Appeal.
That carefully tailored 1998 law has privately troubled psychology professionals for years yet remained unknown to the larger public.
The newspaper uncovered the matter following Morgan's indictment last month.
Federal prosecutors contend Morgan offered Ford money in 2005 for legislation that would have given psychologists power to prescribe drugs. Morgan is not charged with the alleged attempted bribery but with lying about it when approached by FBI agents who secretly recorded the conversation.
Morgan, 54, has pleaded not guilty. He has not responded to requests for an interview. Ford, serving a federal prison term on corruption charges, also was not available.
An examination of Morgan's past also found Arkansas regulators said in 1997 they had erred in granting him a license, again citing a dubious academic record.
Despite that history, Morgan has been paid hundreds of thousands of dollars over the past five years for conducting psychological evaluations and treating defendants passing through the Shelby County Drug Court.
"Quite a few psychologists remember when the legislature circumvented the Board of Examiners in Psychology and apparently allowed Dr. Morgan the title of psychologist,'' said Dr. John McCoy, past president of the Tennessee Psychological Association, of the 1998 bill.
"Many psychologists consider the day the bill was approved as the darkest day in the history of psychology in Tennessee.''
A trail of legislative documents and audio tapes in the state archives as well as papers from Morgan's licensing file tell how it unfolded.
Rejected by the licensing board a second time in late 1997, Morgan turned to Ford, who introduced a bill in the General Assembly to reverse the board.
"Sometimes the board, they don't do right,'' Ford says on a tape from an April 1998 legislative committee meeting. Ford said he was helping an unnamed constituent who had passed a national psychology test with a score higher than Tennessee's standard yet still was getting jerked around by the board.
"We have to make decisions in the best interests of the people,'' Ford told colleagues, "and we're making it right here.''
The board had faulted Morgan's academic credentials, citing master's and doctoral degrees in psychology from Villarreal University in Lima, Peru. (According to his resume, Morgan also got an M.D. in 2004 from the International University of Health Sciences in St. Kitts, West Indies.) Board minutes show Morgan was rejected because his doctoral program hadn't been approved by World Education Services, a respected nonprofit specializing in foreign credential evaluation.
Morgan, who was already licensed in Arkansas, argued he had obtained satisfactory evaluations from two psychology professionals as well as from Thomas Edison State College in New Jersey.
Ford said his bill could help several people the board was "jerking around,'' yet it appeared to be aimed squarely at Morgan:
It directed the board to grant a license to any applicant who had passed a national exam as stringent as Tennessee's and who held a license in another state -- specifically a license awarded between Jan. 1 and June 1, 1995.
Records show Morgan received his Arkansas license on Jan. 20, 1995.
However, his licensing file there shows that the chairman of the Arkansas board later said he had erred in licensing Morgan.
Dr. Elliot M. Fielstein, chair of the Arkansas board in 1995, said in a December 1997 letter to Tennessee regulators that Morgan's training in Peru didn't add up.
Fielstein wrote that Morgan's transcripts show he earned a master's and a doctoral degree over one year and nine months in Peru -- a feat that typically would take at least four years -- while simultaneously working most of that time in Memphis on an internship.
"This timeline of events lacks credibility,'' Fielstein wrote. "The quality of the course work, thesis, or dissertation could not possibly match the educational standards inherent in the licensing requirements.''
All of this was news to Drug Court Judge Tim Dwyer, who has worked with Morgan for several years trying to reform addicts who land in the criminal justice system.
Records show Morgan was paid $450,000 between 2003 and last year through a series of contracts requiring him to perform psychological assessments, drug and alcohol screens, outpatient treatment and other services to defendants in the Drug Court's DUI program.
In recent months, Morgan has also headed another Drug Court contractor, the Alcohol & Chemical Abuse Rehab Center. Following his May 13 indictment, Morgan sent a letter on ACAR stationery disassociating himself from Drug Court.
"When he did the service for us he did a real good job,'' Dwyer said.
Records show county purchasing officials questioned in 2006 whether one of Morgan's contracts should have been competitively bid. Dwyer, who grew up with Morgan in Frayser, said he "didn't pull any strings'' for his friend but recalls that Morgan started as a volunteer and did such good work that he began getting paid when Drug Court won a crucial state grant.
Dwyer said he knew Morgan and Ford were friends yet was surprised and disheartened by Morgan's indictment.
A defense motion filed in Morgan's criminal case indicates the charges stem from Operation Tennessee Waltz, the undercover FBI sting that led to Ford's bribery conviction last year. Ford, 66, is serving 51/2 years in a federal prison for taking $55,000 from undercover agents posing as corrupt businessmen.
Morgan's lawyer, Leslie Ballin, said last week he's considering moving to suppress evidence from eavesdropping that may have improperly intercepted his client's interaction with Ford. "I've been told (the evidence) involves a wiretap,'' Ballin said.
Whigs? Mugwumps? I give up.
It couldn’t possibly be (D), could it?
The same John Ford that allegedly shot at a trucker that had blocked his attempt to pass traffic stalled on the interstate as he went around on the shoulder. The trucker saw him coming and pulled over to block him. The trucker said the MB pulled around him and the black man shot at him. When the Highway Patrol pulled the car over, there was no gun. He had thrown it out. This guy is a slimeball and deserves to rot in jail for all the money he has made off the taxpayers. Harold Ford, Jr is merely John Ford lite. A chip off the old block and cut from the same cloth, even though he is John’s nephew. His father, Harold Ford, was THE most liberal Dem in the Tennessee delegation in Washington for years.
Wobblies or Know Nothings, I think.
aren’t, not are - scuze me.
And, you think that you live in the state with the most fruits and nuts.....