Security guards chauffeuring high ranking district officials - Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

School security guards chauffeuring high ranking MCS officials

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By Lori Brown - bio | email

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - With taxpayers already paying millions to fund Memphis City Schools, the Action News 5 Investigators recently uncovered an expense some say is a complete waste of money.

You probably think a Memphis City Schools Security Guard's job is to protect children, but the job also entails driving an administrator to and from work, and around town.

Action News 5 recently recorded video of it happening outside a downtown condo complex.  On one occasion, the guard drove past our camera on his way to pick up Deputy Schools Superintendent Dr. Irving Hamer.

But Hamer wasn't outside.

About 15 minutes later, the security car drove back around.  This time, the car started to turn away from our camera, but then the driver decided to go straight.  As the car passed, Hamer waved at our camera.

On other occasions, dating back to last year, a source captured images of a security guard arriving, morning after morning.  The guard would wait, and Hamer would get picked up.

Memphis City Council member Kemp Conrad says the chauffeur service is a waste of taxpayer money.

"It's the message that it sends," Conrad said. "We're spending money, time, resources, car, gas, insurance chauffeuring someone to work every day. At the end of the day, those are dollars not being spent in the classroom, and on what they should be spent on which is children."

To Conrad, the chauffeuring is just one example of misplaced priorities.

"Kriner Cash comes to our City Council meetings with a paramilitary guard that looks like he's about to deploy for Afghanistan," Conrad said. "It's just this mentality, and it's just all that stuff costs money. It costs a lot of money."

Memphis City Schools would not allow Action News 5 to interview Hamer about the service he receives at taxpayer expense.  Instead, the district issued this statement:  

"As part of the terms and conditions of his employment, Dr. Cash has authorized the district to provide transportation to Deputy Superintendent Dr. Irving Hamer…Available, on-duty security personnel who are not engaged in conflicting assignments generally transport Dr. Hamer to and from school-related business…The current practice allows the Deputy Superintendent to work while traveling and helps to ensure that he safely and timely arrives to and from work as well as the myriad of sites that he visits on the District's behalf."

Conrad doesn't agree with the District's reasoning.

"We have an administrator who can't even drive to work," he said.

Make that two administrators, as Cash has a driver, too.  Action News 5 wanted to ask Hamer and Superintendent Cash if school children would be better served with a security guard at a school, instead of behind the wheel.     

While waiting for Hamer before a school board work session, Memphis City Schools spokesperson Quintin Taylor asked that reporter Lori Brown not talk to Hamer.

LORI BROWN: "Why can't Dr. Hamer, why can't Dr. Cash, why aren't they able to answer my questions?"

QUINTIN TAYLOR: "They have decided to not do on camera interviews regarding the matter."

LORI BROWN: "I mean, why? I thought you guys were about transparency."

QUINTIN TAYLOR: "That's transparency, you have a statement."

LORI BROWN: "Why can't they talk to us? Why can't I just have a conversation with them?"

QUINTIN TAYLOR: "Well, that's for them to make that decision."

Cash and Hamer made that decision clear when they arrived at the board work session, as both declined to comment.

"I think it shows there is something to hide," Conrad said. "He should be big enough to explain to taxpayers why he needs this service."

A Memphis City Schools spokesperson said Cash and Hamer are the only employees picked up and driven to work.  Meanwhile, a source recently told Action News 5 that on one occasion, two cars showed up at Hamer's home. The drivers were seemingly confused as to who was supposed to pick him up.

Memphis City Schools Security Chief Gerald Darling received transportation during the last school year, but does not this year, though we don't know why.

As for how much this all costs, the district is not saying.  Memphis City Schools spends over $4.5 million on security salaries each year, with mobile security officers making over $35,000 annually, on average.

Presumably some of those officers serve as drivers for Hamer and Cash.

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