Editorial: State, local board failed Hay House

Editorial Board • Feb 17, 2020 at 10:00 PM

The community was shocked last summer when John R. Hay House, a United Way agency and Sullivan County institution that for nearly 40 years had shepherded thousands of convicts through transition from jail to reuniting with the community, suddenly shut down with little explanation.

Now we know why: bad management and nepotism by the director that went on for years. But in turn, that also points the finger of blame at the local board of directors and the Tennessee Department of Corrections.

The nonprofit closed last June, ending the county’s only alternative sentencing program for offenders, with a vague announcement about factors outside the board’s control. But an investigation by the Tennessee Office of the Comptroller and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation found that the actions of the director, which were certainly within the board’s control, contributed to the program’s demise.

Hay House employed Director Dr. Charles L. Walsh’s son-in-law, Eric Monday, in December 1997 as a transportation officer until March 2000 when he was hired away by TDOC as a corrections officer. But his tenure with TDOC lasted less than four months after he admitted to smuggling a knife to an inmate and then promising to pay that inmate to harm another inmate.

Monday subsequently pleaded guilty to attempted second-degree murder. But in February 2014 he again was employed by Hay House despite being a convicted felon, this time as a case officer eventually rising to the rank of facility manager.

In January 2019, Monday was indicted on five counts of theft of $1,000 or less from incidents in February and March of 2018 when Monday and an offender at Hay House allegedly took items from a Kingsport store. Yet, Hay House continued to pay Monday after he was arrested in April 2018 and until he was terminated for “lack of work” due to “budget cuts,” which allowed him to file for unemployment. Investigators say there’s more than $7,100 in questionable payments to Monday.

Investigators also found that Hay House employed a registered sex offender as a cook. Neither annual TDOC grants, which mostly fund Hay House, or Hay House policy specifically stated that employees must pass a background check. However, investigators said it should be reasonably expected that the purpose of a background check would be to determine that people who supervise those with criminal records do not have criminal records of their own.

The report further lists two internal control and compliance deficiencies: that TDOC did not detect Hay House employed convicted felons and that TDOC did not detect an employee accrued and used leave in violation of Hay House policy.

Sullivan County District Attorney Barry Staubus said he intends to submit the matter to the grand jury to determine if there was any criminal activity or just administrative problems with the Hay House. All well and good.

But what a shame that an organization that was doing a tremendous service was brought down because board members apparently were not doing due diligence and neither was the state Department of Corrections. The function of Hay House has yet to be replaced.

Kingsport Times News Videos