The Metro Council is calling for immediate changes at Autumn Hills. NewsChannel 5 Investigates first began exposing problems at the city's assisted living facility back in September.
Now it seems, council members are taking notice. They say what's happening out at Autumn Hills isn't working.
And at Tuesday night's full council meeting, they urged the mayor to end the city's relationship with the developer who's been running the facility.
With a vote, a unanimous council sent a strong message to Mayor Barry late Tuesday night, urging her administration to find a new operator for Autumn Hills as soon as possible after council members voiced serious concerns about the residents' care and the facility's ongoing financial problems.
Councilman Scott Davis emotionally pleaded with fellow members, "I almost put my 99 year old grandma in here and the stuff that's going on here and brought to our attention, I'm sorry, please audit committee, everyone look at this."
Three years ago, the city turned over management of the assisted living facility to an outside company. The lease agreement called for developer Mike Hampton's company to run the facility and then buy it outright this past summer along with the land around it. But that never happened.
The Council's attorney, Mike Jameson, told council members that Hampton failed to meet the terms of the agreement.
"The contract for all intents and purposes is dead, is expired," he added.
And, Metro Legal Director John Cooper insisted the deal to sell the property is off as well, stating, "There are no plans to close on the sale of the facility."
Yet Hampton and his business partner Sam Latham have remained in charge at Autumn Hills.
The city says it's now searching for someone to take over as soon as possible. But council members want the current managers out now.
Councilman Decosta Hastings suggested, "Can we go forward and remove them from the leadership process and put somebody else in place?"
Hastings cited Autumn Hills' money problems and the facility's failure to have required liability insurance.
Councilman Jim Shulman told those at the meeting, "A lot of this information was uncovered by NewsChannel 5. That's what started all of this. Information that bills weren't being paid."
Metro's Legal Director promised that once they find new management, the city will do an audit, but some council members said that can't wait.
Councilman Steve Glover stated, "I think there are some real concerns and there are some real issues. I think this needs to be dealt with now rather than later."
But, the current operators aren't giving up. Sam Latham was in the council chambers briefly while Mike Hampton's attorney sent a last minute letter that was distributed to council members insisting "there are no outstanding patient care issues" and they're working to pay their outstanding debts.
But, council members weren't swayed.
Councilman Scott Davis pushed, "We need to look at finding a new operator quickly and try to transition the old operator out."
A final vote on the measure will come in two weeks. But the mayor and her staff have the final say in what to do with the facility. Since we began our investigation, we've asked at least three times for interviews with Mayor Barry and her administration and been refused. But her Chief Operating Officer Rich Reibling told the Tennessean they're looking at their options, however "it's not like there's a crisis like some people are trying to portray."
The mayor's office meanwhile sent NewsChannel 5 a statement from Mayor Barry on Autumn Hills saying:
"Ensuring the safety and well-being of residents at the Autumn Hills facility is my top priority as we look at long-term options for ownership and control of this facility. My Office, along with Metro Legal and the Finance Department, is continuing to seek out and investigate the best option to properly manage Autumn Hills on a short term emergency basis, as well as find the long term solution that is in the best interest of the city and the residents at the facility. In the meantime, Metro officials have been meeting with the current operators of the facility to ensure the residents are receiving the quality of care they need. We understand the frustration that Council Members and some residents of the facility have expressed about this issue, but making sure we take time to do the due diligence necessary to make the right decision is paramount to a successful process. As soon as we find a solution that we believe works in the best interest of residents at the facility, we will announce that decision to the public and the Metro Council.”