Patients removed from Gordon care home

State report includes allegations of physical abuse, voting fraud

awomack@macon.comFebruary 10, 2014 

The state has removed 16 patients from a Gordon home for the mentally and developmentally disabled after reports of physical abuse there.

Criminal charges were filed against seven employees after a state investigation of the Total Care Personal Care Home.

Investigative documents obtained by The Telegraph also allege that employees took patients to vote in the November 2013 election and that one reluctant patient was “bribed” with food.

The Georgia Secretary of State’s Office began a probe of that election after allegations surfaced that unqualified voters had received illegal help in casting ballots.

Pamela Reaves, the owner and operator of the facility, is the sister of Mary Ann Whipple-Lue, Gordon’s new mayor. Whipple-Lue took over as mayor in January after defeating the incumbent, Kenneth Turner, by 40 votes.

Emotions have been running high in the small town since new city leadership took over. Four employees filed discrimination complaints against Whipple-Lue last month, and a group, Concerned Citizens of Gordon, formed, with an aim of ousting the new mayor from office.

Attempts to reach Whipple-Lue were unsuccessful Monday.

Reaves’ lawyer, Adrian Patrick, said allegations of voting fraud involving the Total Care facility are “absolutely not true.”

A spokesman for the Secretary of State’s Office said Monday that he couldn’t comment on whether the state investigation involved Total Care.

Multiple agencies have participated in the Total Care abuse investigation, including the GBI, Gordon police and the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities.

Seven employees were arrested in late 2013 on charges ranging from battery and aggravated assault to failure to report a crime, according to the GBI.

So far, the investigation involves one alleged victim, said Joe Wooten, special agent in charge of the GBI’s Milledgeville office. He said he couldn’t comment on whether there could be additional victims.

One resident allegedly was struck with a belt 18 times and was punched on Nov. 7, 2013, according to a Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities report.

Former staff members who were charged made allegations against Reaves, saying she told staffers to “hit individuals to keep them in line” and “hit them in the head so they would not bruise,” according to the report.

When interviewed as part of the investigation, Reaves denied the allegations.

The state Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities has stopped sending clients to Total Care and has ended its agreement with the facility.

The department also has recommended that the state Department of Community Health terminate Total Care’s Medicaid number, according to a statement.

Patrick, the lawyer representing Reaves, said Reaves hasn’t done anything wrong.

“She followed proper state protocols,” he said.

After noticing the alleged abuse, she recorded her employees’ interactions with residents on video. As a result of what she saw, she fired five workers and alerted authorities, Patrick said.

Patrick said he is helping Reaves in her efforts to return patients to Total Care.

At least 15 of the facility’s 16 patients have signed affidavits, or their guardians have signed affidavits, saying they wanted to stay at Reaves’ facility, he said.

“They were happy and pleased with her,” Patrick said.

To contact writer Amy Leigh Womack, call 744-4398.

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