An embattled lawmaker accused of sexual misconduct stands to profit from a facility that has faced its own allegations.
Even before three women accused Rep. David Byrd last month of initiating sexual contact with them while they were teenagers, the state lawmaker faced questions about his role as a shareholder in the Middle Tennessee Juvenile Detention Center in Columbia.
Last year the News 4 I-Team uncovered allegations against the MTJDC raised by parents and former employees of the center ranging from improper treatment to the quality of medical care.
Those allegations were detailed in redacted medical records, police reports and 911 tapes obtained by the I-Team.
“Kid saying that one of the staff members rubbed his penis against this boy’s butt,” one DCS investigator can be heard saying in a 911 call.
Chandler Anderson previously worked at the center as a health care provider. He raised concerns about the facility last year.
“If they want to be credible as an institution and not just viewed as a kiddie jail that makes profit off keeping children in cages, then they should demand Rep. Byrd divest his stock and step down,” Anderson said.
Anderson said he believes it is a conflict of interest that someone accused of sexual misconduct partly owns a juvenile center that has also faced allegations involving sexual misconduct.
Byrd has owned 2.6 percent of the company since 2000. Several months ago, the lawmaker released the following statement:
“As an educator for over 30 years, I believe it is always important to look into allegations of misconduct, especially when it involves our children. In this specific situation, the Tennessee Department of Children's Services conducted an investigation and found absolutely no wrongdoing by facility staff. In addition, the Director has no criminal charges against him and has been cleared completely by a background check.Unfortunately in today's society, former disgruntled employees feel empowered to spread false narratives because they know they can get attention by making outrageous claims. This is the world we live in today and it is certainly an unfortunate reality that we must all deal with.Many of the youths brought to this facility are from Memphis and other high crime areas with gang-affiliated backgrounds. While the majority of those in the program are able to be successfully rehabilitated and go on to live productive lives, these violent backgrounds sometimes naturally lead to events where facility staff members are placed in life or death situations and must take appropriate actions to protect those around them.As a visitor to this facility on numerous occasions where I check in with teachers and other key staff, I have full confidence in these professionals to do their job and to do it right. Instead of being harassed by unsubstantiated claims, we should be commending them for the hard work they put in every single day for the betterment of all Tennesseans.”
Anderson said one part of Byrd’s former statement stands out: “I believe it is always important to look into allegations of misconduct, especially when it involves our children.”
“You said it yourself, Mr. Byrd. All allegations should be investigated. So let’s investigate," said Anderson, referring to the accusations against Byrd.
When asked if Byrd should step away from the facility as a shareholder, Director Tom Irwin said he had no comment.
Byrd did not return a request for comment.
The state lawmaker has neither affirmed nor denied the allegations against him individually. He told the I-Team last month he does not plan to resign, rebuking requests from leaders of his own party to step down.
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