The Investigators: Goodwill, Bad Mistake - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

The Investigators: Goodwill, Bad Mistake

By Andy Wise - bio | email | Twitter | Facebook

MEMPHIS (WMC TV) - The family of a dead city employee made the donation with the best of intentions.

But the donation of two Memphis Park Services uniform shirts -- size 6XL and brand new -- to Goodwill presents two problems:  the unsanctioned giveaway of public property and a potential homeland security threat.

"The fear of someone trying to impersonate, someone trying to just gain entry," said Memphis Police Director Larry Godwin.

A viewer's e-mail tipped the Action News 5 Investigators to the shirts.  On hidden camera, our producers found the shirts on the rack at Goodwill's Highland Ave. store near the University of Memphis.  We bought them for a total of $7.98.

"Somebody missed this, obviously," said Dave Leutwyler, vice president of operations for Goodwill Memphis.  He said employees at Goodwill's processing center at Stage Rd. and Summer Avenue sort through 250,000 donations a year -- more than a million articles of clothing annually. 

Sometimes, a "non-sellable" item sneaks through.

"This would be a 'non-sellable' item," he said when we showed him the shirts.  "(They) should not have been sold."

They should not have been donated in the first place.

"Those shirts in particular should have been disposed of," said Cindy Buchanan, director of Memphis Park Services. 

She said the shirts are the kind worn by the city's park gardeners and mowers.  The city does not order a surplus of the shirts.  Each employee who wears them is measured, sized, then issued two new shirts a year since they are typically filthy and damaged by the end of the year.

Buchanan, who would not name the employee out of respect for his family's privacy, said the worker became gravely ill shortly after receiving his 2008 shirt allotment.  When he died, his family donated the shirts along with other items.

"Thinking they were doing a good thing," Buchanan said.

Oops.

If you ever find government property or uniforms at a thrift store, charity event or garage sale, bring it to the attention of the manager or homeowner. 

Public employees -- uniformed or not -- are issued credentials that properly identify them as government workers.  Citizens have the right to request to see their credentials (picture ID's) as proof of their employment.  All City of Memphis employees MUST carry a plastic ID card that looks like this:

It's made of a card stock that is difficult to counterfeit.

Chris Stanley, media relations lead for Memphis Light Gas & Water, said these are the guidelines for identifying the utility's employees:

  • MLGW employees very rarely ask to enter your home without prior customer contact. Most of the time when MLGW workers enter your home it is because the customer called us.
  • MLGW field employees do not ask for or accept money for residential customer accounts.
  • MLGW employees will always carry proper identification. Customers should ask to see identification badges in addition to looking for the MLGW logo on the uniform and the vehicle.
  • To verify an MLGW work request or employee, call (901) 544-MLGW.

"Not all of our employees are dressed in the same uniform," said Stanley.  "Our meter reader uniforms are 'safety yellow' while our lineman and other crew members wear a blue shirt with a logo over the chest area.

"However, these folks too could have other safety gear over the uniform that would make the logo impossible to see."

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