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The Commercial Appeal ^ | 4/16/02 | Shirley Downing

Posted on 04/16/2002 5:26:18 AM PDT by GailA

Drug raid cost day care figure her license Gibson's brother sold crack, had gun at Miss. center

By Shirley Downing April 16, 2002

GREENVILLE, Miss. - Robert Simpson was on "night watch" at his sister's day care center here in March 1996 when police raided the place and recovered almost 117 grams of cocaine.

Simpson had been selling drugs out the front door of the Kid's World Learning Center, police said. His dope was stashed in wooden cubicles where youngsters stored their nap pads, and he kept a loaded .38-caliber revolver in an unlocked file cabinet in a doorless office accessible to toddlers.

Simpson, the day care center's night watchman who has gone by several aliases, served four years in federal prison on the drug charge. Mississippi officials yanked the license of owners Camelia Gibson Jones and her then-husband, Frank Jones of Memphis.

The center has since reopened under a new name, and the license has been issued to another Gibson relative.

Camelia Gibson Jones got a divorce, but she has continued a tangled association with several troubled child care centers in Memphis. Among them is one that has become the focus of an investigation following a van crash this month that killed the driver and four children.

Tennessee officials still aren't sure how many day care programs Gibson has been connected with or the considerable amount of money she collected in government subsidies, said Paul Ladd, spokesman for the Tennessee Department of Human Services in Nashville.

"We have a lot of questions," Ladd said, adding state officials were "shocked" to learn of the drug incident in Mississippi, which surfaced after The Commercial Appeal began looking into Gibson's history in the day care business.

"To put kids in harm's way is unconscionable," Ladd said.

Day care regulators found problems at Gibson's centers in Memphis dating to at least 1997. That's when one of her brothers, a worker at one of her centers, was convicted of sexual battery but rehired at another center under a different name.

Two years later DHS Commissioner Natasha Metcalf, citing repeated violations, ruled that Gibson, 42, lacked "good character" and yanked her license to operate one day care center. Yet it was another year before the state revoked her license to operate another Memphis day care operation.

Now Gibson is the subject of a multi-agency investigation into her business dealings in Tennessee. Among the investigating agencies is the Tennessee Comptroller's Office.

The deadly accident this month involved a van leased by the Tippy Toes Learning Academy at 1730 Lamar. The driver, 27-year-old Wesley Hudson, was a convicted drug user who should not have been allowed to work at a day care center. DHS officials are trying to determine why a required criminal background check on him was never done and why their inspectors did not catch that fact during inspections.

The license for Tippy Toes was issued to Sandra Gordon, who had worked for the Gibson day care center in Greenville. Gordon last week surrendered her Tennessee day care license.

But the state has raised a question about whether Gordon was actually fronting for Gibson, who ran a day care at the same Lamar Avenue site until she lost her license two years ago.

Neither Gibson nor Gordon have been available for comment, but lawyer Jeff Rosenblum, who has talked to both women, said Tippy Toes was not a front for Gibson. He said Gibson merely leased the Lamar Avenue property and vans to Gordon.

Rosenblum said he was not aware of the drug raid in Greenville or of Mississippi Health Department concerns that immunization records may have been falsified at the center there. He also said he did not know Gordon had worked at the Greenville day care center.

Rosenblum plans to meet with Gibson this afternoon to look at her business records. He said he is not representing Gordon.

In Memphis, Gibson has owned or operated at least four day care centers since 1991, often employing relatives, or people with the same last names. Some of Gibson's workers use aliases and have criminal records.

Apparently the only Gibson-related center still open is Kid's World Learning Center at 2341 Frayser Blvd. It is run by Gibson's ex-husband, Frank Jones.

Jones last week sought to distance himself from his ex-wife, saying they were together about two years and that he never did "know her very well." He said he forgot how they met. "I really don't know. I don't."

He said, "I haven't talked to her since we separated."

Court documents indicate the couple married in 1992, separated in 1995 and divorced in 1998.

Gibson surfaced in DHS licensing files in 1991 when she, Jones and Charles Lesure bought a Frayser Boulevard day care building and opened Kid's World. The next year a licensing supervisor found a crowded facility, with two adults supervising 26 toddlers in one room.

Records indicate Gibson had been given a conditional license for a second Kid's World at 1768 Delwood in Frayser, but Ladd said that center apparently never got far off the ground.

Doris Gibson said her daughter, Camelia, opened the Greenville day care about 1990.

Jones identified Robert Simpson, arrested in the Greenville drug raid, as Camelia Gibson's brother, but he had scant knowledge of the incident because he and Gibson "weren't together at the time."

Mississippi officials said records on the Greenville day care facility are limited to the inch-thick transcript of a May 21, 1996, licensing hearing. Health Department licensing officer Denise Bishoff testified that police found crack cocaine in the room where the children stayed; she said day care staff members were aware of the drug sales.

State licensing officers said the day care center lacked the mandatory immunization records and there was some indication employees had sought to falsify records.

At the time of the raid, Doris Gibson said, Camelia Gibson had been staying in Memphis a lot because one of her children had been struck by a car and she was staying "home full time with the child."

Following her troubles in Mississippi, Gibson opened Gloryland Learning Academy in 1997 at 3520 Marion in Memphis.

Ladd said Tennessee officials were not aware of the Mississippi troubles when the state revoked Gibson's license to operate Gloryland in 1999.

At that time, police had charged one of Gibson's sons, Demarkus Taylor, with child endangerment. They said he was under the influence of marijuana while driving 22 children in a day care van.

DHS officials also said Gibson had apparently hired another brother, Gerald Hayes, as a van driver and caregiver at the Kids World on Frayser Boulevard.

After his conviction for sexual battery, Hayes lost his job at Kids World. But, DHS officials said, Gibson apparently hired him at Gloryland under the name Charles Davis.

Gibson opened Grand Central Station Learning Academy at 1730 Lamar in the fall of 1998. But in 2000, regulators revoked Gibson's license to run that center after she and her son, Shintri Gibson, were indicted in a counterfeit money scheme.

Charges were dismissed against Camelia Gibson; her son pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy, admitting he had been making the fake money at the day care center. Gibson then apparently leased the Lamar Avenue building and vans to Gordon, who had once managed Gibson's Greenville day care center.

Gordon changed the day care center's name to Tippy Toes Learning Academy and opened just two months after Gibson's Grand Central Station license revocation became final. Gordon kept the same phone number and some of the same workers.

- Shirley Downing:


TOPICS: Crime/Corruption; Culture/Society; Extended News; US: Mississippi; US: Tennessee
KEYWORDS: daycare; memphis; mississippi
This case just keeps growing. The shame of it is six children and babies have died to bring it to light.
1 posted on 04/16/2002 5:26:18 AM PDT by GailA
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To: GailA
Tennessee officials still aren't sure how many day care programs Gibson has been connected with or the considerable amount of money she collected in government subsidies, said Paul Ladd, spokesman for the Tennessee Department of Human Services in Nashville.

I bet this is not the only day care provider, with criminal connections, getting "considerable government subsidies" for watching other people's children. Pity the poor children who are being used.

2 posted on 04/16/2002 5:40:13 AM PDT by maica
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To: maica
BINGO give the man a cigar! Memphis Cherokee day care brokers have been scaming the tax Serfs for several years. They finaly got caught with the Commercial Appeals investigating. The slick Ford's have their finger in this till. No one has the GUTS to dig real deep to bust them though. Just not quite enough evidence to make a hard and fast conntection it seems.

This is an OVER $80M industry in Memphis alone.

3 posted on 04/16/2002 5:54:19 AM PDT by GailA
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To: GailA
What a sad case...and even sadder is the fact that this type of thing seems to be happening more & more. I count my blessings that I've never had to rely on strangers to care for my little ones.
4 posted on 04/16/2002 6:58:07 AM PDT by Larightgirl
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To: GailA
there must be a couple dozen "child development centers on 61 between 240 & mittittippi line. what give?
5 posted on 04/16/2002 7:00:13 AM PDT by thinden
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To: GailA
Hello - hello - is anybody home?? I guess not - we just keep on sending Government checks and they keep on cashing them. Bureaucrats you gotta love 'em.
6 posted on 04/16/2002 7:31:19 AM PDT by sandydipper
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To: thinden
$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$ from the Mississippi and Tennessee Tax Serfs
7 posted on 04/16/2002 10:35:14 AM PDT by GailA
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