Prisoner Ford's Corrupt Hand Lingers in Govt.
- Anyone with a brain the size of a pea knows to have nothing to do
with the corrupt Democrat Ford family.
John Ford-backed law lets doctor practice
By Marc Perrusquia (Contact)
Memphis Commercial Appeal
Sunday, June 1, 2008
Tennessee regulators wanted nothing to do with Dr. Roger Morgan.
A psychologist raised in Frayser and trained in South America, Morgan
had been rejected twice by the state's psychology licensing board
because of his academic record.
But Morgan found a powerful ally in then-state Sen. John Ford, who
pushed through legislation that forced regulators to hand Morgan a
license to practice, according to an examination by The Commercial
That carefully tailored 1998 law has privately troubled psychology
professionals for years yet remained unknown to the larger public.
The newspaper uncovered the matter following Morgan's indictment last
Federal prosecutors contend Morgan offered Ford money in 2005 for
legislation that would have given psychologists power to prescribe
drugs. Morgan is not charged with the alleged attempted bribery but
with lying about it when approached by FBI agents who secretly
recorded the conversation.
Morgan, 54, has pleaded not guilty. He has not responded to requests
for an interview. Ford, serving a federal prison term on corruption
charges, also was not available.
An examination of Morgan's past also found Arkansas regulators said
in 1997 they had erred in granting him a license, again citing a
dubious academic record.
Despite that history, Morgan has been paid hundreds of thousands of
dollars over the past five years for conducting psychological
evaluations and treating defendants passing through the Shelby County
"Quite a few psychologists remember when the legislature circumvented
the Board of Examiners in Psychology and apparently allowed Dr.
Morgan the title of psychologist,'' said Dr. John McCoy, past
president of the Tennessee Psychological Association, of the 1998
"Many psychologists consider the day the bill was approved as the
darkest day in the history of psychology in Tennessee.''
A trail of legislative documents and audio tapes in the state
archives as well as papers from Morgan's licensing file tell how it
Rejected by the licensing board a second time in late 1997, Morgan
turned to Ford, who introduced a bill in the General Assembly to
reverse the board.
"Sometimes the board, they don't do right,'' Ford says on a tape from
an April 1998 legislative committee meeting. Ford said he was helping
an unnamed constituent who had passed a national psychology test with
a score higher than Tennessee's standard yet still was getting jerked
around by the board.
"We have to make decisions in the best interests of the people,''
Ford told colleagues, "and we're making it right here.''
The board had faulted Morgan's academic credentials, citing master's
and doctoral degrees in psychology from Villarreal University in
Lima, Peru. (According to his resume, Morgan also got an M.D. in 2004
from the International University of Health Sciences in St. Kitts,
West Indies.) Board minutes show Morgan was rejected because his
doctoral program hadn't been approved by World Education Services, a
respected nonprofit specializing in foreign credential evaluation.
Morgan, who was already licensed in Arkansas, argued he had obtained
satisfactory evaluations from two psychology professionals as well as
from Thomas Edison State College in New Jersey.
Ford said his bill could help several people the board was "jerking
around,'' yet it appeared to be aimed squarely at Morgan:
It directed the board to grant a license to any applicant who had
passed a national exam as stringent as Tennessee's and who held a
license in another state -- specifically a license awarded between
Jan. 1 and June 1, 1995.
Records show Morgan received his Arkansas license on Jan. 20, 1995.
However, his licensing file there shows that the chairman of the
Arkansas board later said he had erred in licensing Morgan.
Dr. Elliot M. Fielstein, chair of the Arkansas board in 1995, said in
a December 1997 letter to Tennessee regulators that Morgan's training
in Peru didn't add up.
Fielstein wrote that Morgan's transcripts show he earned a master's
and a doctoral degree over one year and nine months in Peru -- a feat
that typically would take at least four years -- while simultaneously
working most of that time in Memphis on an internship.
"This timeline of events lacks credibility,'' Fielstein wrote. "The
quality of the course work, thesis, or dissertation could not
possibly match the educational standards inherent in the licensing
All of this was news to Drug Court Judge Tim Dwyer, who has worked
with Morgan for several years trying to reform addicts who land in
the criminal justice system.
Records show Morgan was paid $450,000 between 2003 and last year
through a series of contracts requiring him to perform psychological
assessments, drug and alcohol screens, outpatient treatment and other
services to defendants in the Drug Court's DUI program.
In recent months, Morgan has also headed another Drug Court
contractor, the Alcohol & Chemical Abuse Rehab Center. Following his
May 13 indictment, Morgan sent a letter on ACAR stationery
disassociating himself from Drug Court.
"When he did the service for us he did a real good job,'' Dwyer said.
Records show county purchasing officials questioned in 2006 whether
one of Morgan's contracts should have been competitively bid. Dwyer,
who grew up with Morgan in Frayser, said he "didn't pull any
strings'' for his friend but recalls that Morgan started as a
volunteer and did such good work that he began getting paid when Drug
Court won a crucial state grant.
Dwyer said he knew Morgan and Ford were friends yet was surprised and
disheartened by Morgan's indictment.
A defense motion filed in Morgan's criminal case indicates the
charges stem from Operation Tennessee Waltz, the undercover FBI sting
that led to Ford's bribery conviction last year. Ford, 66, is serving
51/2 years in a federal prison for taking $55,000 from undercover
agents posing as corrupt businessmen.
Morgan's lawyer, Leslie Ballin, said last week he's considering
moving to suppress evidence from eavesdropping that may have
improperly intercepted his client's interaction with Ford. "I've been
told (the evidence) involves a wiretap,'' Ballin said.
-- Marc Perrusquia: 529-2545