Mayor's donation check among records found in dumpster - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Mayor's donation check among records found in dumpster

(WMC TV) - The director of an adult literacy charity is trying to figure out how the personal information of former associates and donors, including Memphis Mayor AC Wharton, were piled up inside the charity's dumpster.

"It absolutely should not have happened," said Kevin Dean, executive director of Literacy Mid-South, based in Cooper-Young. "It was a huge mistake, and we are terribly sorry to the mayor and anyone else who was affected."

Wednesday, Cooper-Young business owner Bret James alerted The Action News 5 Investigators to the dumpster, adjacent to both his property and Literacy Mid-South on Cooper St.

James said what appeared to be computer keyboards in good condition caught his eye. When he went to inspect them, he found the records.

"People's Social Security numbers, home addresses, bank account and checking account numbers," James said.

The records, by our inspection, appear to be 6-year-old documents of the former Mid-South Reading Alliance and the University of Memphis' Memphis Reads program.

Among the records:

* Social Security numbers of the alliance's former board of directors

* Line-itemed expense reports and tax identification numbers

* 'Thank you' letters to donors stapled to copies of their canceled checks (including account numbers)

Among the latter is a 2007 letter to Mayor Wharton, thanking him for a $250 donation. Attached is a copy of the check written on his campaign account, which is allowed under Tennessee election law.

"The mayor's check is in the dumpster," said James.

Dean said his staff has been converting all of the charity's records from paper to electronic storage and disposing of the alliance's dated records.

"We have 40 years of documents in this building," Dean said. "And we're shredding them as we move. We're moving to a new location in June."

The office even has an industrial shredder drop-box. Instructions posted by it clearly advise employees to keep any donor documents from 2005 to the present.

"We're still looking at how it happened, how it ended up in the (dumpster)," said Dean.

Wharton said he accepts Dean's apology. He praised Literacy Mid-South as one of the city's shining stars.

Thursday, its adult learning program won Volunteer Mid-South's Outstanding Volunteer Program award. Former Literacy Mid-South Board Chairman Teri Sullivan won Outstanding Board Member.

State financial reports indicate it is one of the more fiscally responsible non-profits in West Tennessee, with a remarkable zero donation dollars spent on professional fund-raising contractors.

"I support the literacy council fully," said Wharton. "Always will."

"They do a great service to the community, hands down, no doubt," added James. "But being careful with everybody's information is so sensitive these days."

Dean confirmed the charity has properly disposed the remaining documents.

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