The facts are in and you're an idiot. You continue to vote in these 'law and order' assholes and you've managed to turn the greatest country on the planet into a zoo. While the politicians, pharmaceutical CEOs, Big Oil and Wall Street bankers laugh all the way to their offshore bank accounts.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

MATA CEO among 42 arrested in Memphis prostitution sting

MATA CEO among 42 arrested in Memphis prostitution sting
By Mike Brown


Ron Garrison, the former chief executive officer with Memphis Area Transit Authority who resigned Thursday, was among 42 people arrested in a Tennessee Bureau of Investigation sting to crack down on what authorities characterized as human trafficking in Memphis, officials announced Friday.

Garrison, who was arrested Wednesday, faces a misdemeanor charge of patronizing prostitution near a church or school.


His offense reportedly involved an adult and not a juvenile.

The former MATA leader's arrest and the link to his resignation -- termed for health issues -- emerged just before a Friday morning news conference where the TBI and local authorities announced the results of the sting operation called "Operation Someone Like Me." More than 40 people, including Garrison, were charged in connection with law enforcement effort aimed at curbing human trafficking, officials said.

Officials with MATA confirmed Friday morning that Garrison was arrested for prostitution-related charges. The MATA board accepted his resignation following a closed-door meeting Thursday afternoon. Gary Rosenfeld, MATA's chief administrative officer, was named interim CEO during the search for Garrison's replacement, MATA board chairman Sean Healy said.

"As it relates to today’s announcement from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation regarding former MATA CEO Ron Garrison, this in no way diminishes the contributions of Mr. Garrison at MATA during his tenure over the last few years," the authority said in a statement Friday morning. "MATA and its Board of Commissioners wishes him well in his future endeavors. But, our top priority as an organization is to remain committed to the number one task at hand and that is diligently serving the Memphis public and our customers by identifying dedicated funding sources and ensuring that public transit is a reliable option for the Memphis area. While the leadership may have changed at MATA, our commitment to our mission has not."

Garrison, whose cell phone responds to calls with a "not a working number" message, couldn't be reached Friday.

Despite his resignation and arrest, MATA will continue paying Garrison his base salary — $165,000 annually , not counting a $500 executive stipend — for four months, his insurance premiums for four months, and to reimburse him for any unused vacation and sick time, according to an agreement associated with his resignation. His contract with Mid-South Transportation Management Inc., which manages MATA's day-to-day operations and employs all MATA employees, was extended in 2016 until 2022.

Garrison will retain his 401(k) and deferred compensation plans, according to the agreement. MATA's pension board will likely discuss Garrison's retirement benefits at its Feb. 22  meeting, Rosenfeld said Friday.

Garrison's arrest and resignation drew a strong reaction from Memphis City Council member Frank Colvett Jr.

Colvett will request a forensic audit of MATA to determine whether any public funds were used for sex trafficking, and for MATA to take immediate action to preserve the contents of Garrison's computer.

"This is horrific on so many levels it's mind-boggling," Colvett said. "He was basically taking part in human sex trafficking, which is in fact slavery."

City Council chairman Berlin Boyd was drafting a letter Friday on behalf of the council to MATA requesting a forensic audit, Colvett said.

Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland's office declined to comment on Garrison's arrest other than to say MATA's board made the right decision to accept his resignation. The mayor's office also stated his support for a forensic review requested by Colvett.

“The mayor believes that a review of the former MATA CEO’s operations is appropriate," according to the statement. "We are working with our internal auditor to determine the scope of such a review.”

Garrison's arrest added an interesting element to a sting operation involving people in Memphis responding to ads on Backpage.com to have sex, some specifically with juveniles. The TBI said 38 of the men sought sex through Backpage.

"We have said all along that this is a demand-driven crime, and this operation demonstrates how very prevalent that demand is," TBI Director Mark Gwyn said.

"Let me speak directly to the men: The women you see advertised online are people, not products," Gwyn added. "We need men to step up and demand better from themselves and the men around them."

A medical professional, an engineer, a law student, construction workers and a tow truck driver were among those arrested. Forty-two people — 38 men, four women — were charged in the sting that unfolded over three days this week. Approximately 475 men responded to the Backpage ads, and undercover agents received more than 8,000 text messages and phone calls when agents posed as women, the TBI said.

Eight men answered the ads and paid to have sex with underage females. Two of them paid specifically for sex with a 14-year-old, the TBI said.

The sting operation has seen more than 200 people arrested in various sweeps throughout Tennessee since 2015. Authorities said the TBI has done eight stings including the one locally, and the Memphis investigation is the largest in the state.

"The work of our agents, intelligence analysts and all law enforcement partners should send a strong message that we won't stand for this type of crime in Memphis or our state," Gwyn said at a morning press conference. "We will take this operation to more cities in Tennessee. We will recover more victims. We will arrest more buyers. We are committed in doing anything and everything possible to address this type of crime."

In addition to the TBI, Memphis Police Department, the Shelby County Sheriff's Office, Homeland Security and the Shelby County District Attorney's Office all assisted with the sting.

Nonprofits Restore Corps and End Slavery Tennessee were also brought in to help with counseling and treatment for the women who were part of the sting.

"Those women are victims," said Shelby County District Attorney General Amy Weirich. "In our office those that are charged with prostitution, women who are selling themselves, are given an opportunity to attend a class and get the charges dismissed from their records and expunged and also be connected with services."

MATA hired Garrison in 2014. He was a 25-year veteran of the transit industry when he was hired from his position as national director of customer service for a Greenville, South Carolina-based manufacturer of advanced electric buses.

“We are excited to welcome Mr. Garrison to Memphis. He brings vision and a wealth of transit experience to our city,” Andre Gibson of the MATA Board of Commissioners said at the time. ”The Board unanimously believes in his leadership and ability to chart a positive future for public transportation in our region.”

After MATA's original statement Friday morning, the transit authority issued a second statement late Friday.

"Earlier today the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation announced that former MATA CEO Ron Garrison was arrested in conjunction with a Human Trafficking Sting operation here in Memphis. 

While Mr. Garrison’s  criminal charges will be resolved by the courts, MATA does not condone Human Trafficking or any other violation of the law," the release stated. 

"The announcement from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation regarding Mr. Garrison in no way reflects the standards and values of MATA.  Our top priority is serving the Memphis public and our customers.  While the leadership has changed at MATA, our commitment to our mission has not."

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