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Smyrna DCS case with Lebanon tie headed to Grand Jury
Jan 21, 2005 12:00 am
Authorities intend to seek professional misconduct charges against a state Department of Children's Services employee assigned to Wilson County arrested in a bizarre incident at a Smyrna hospital.
Christopher T. Lott, 28, who has been suspended because of his arrest, is scheduled to make his initial court appearance today in Smyrna along with Ericka Michelle Barham, 32, a former DCS worker who was also assigned to Wilson County.
Lott is charged with disorderly conduct and Barham with criminal impersonation in Friday's incident at Stonecrest Medical Center, where police said the two falsely claimed to be on a DCS assignment.
But Smyrna Police Sgt. Ken Hampton said Wednesday authorities will ask a grand jury to indict Lott on professional misconduct charges.
"The charge will be professional misconduct and that will have to be presented to the grand jury," he said.
The incident unfolded when the two told a hospital employee who had approached them that they "were looking for a patient they were to interview and photograph, apparently a child," Hampton said.
Though Lott "had his DCS badge in plain view" the hospital worker asked for additional documentation the two were unable to provide, Hampton said.
"There was no paperwork," he said. "They just had no reason to be at the hospital."
DCS has launched an internal affairs investigation into the incident, one of two such probes underway that touch on Wilson County. The agency is also investigating the response of its workers in a case in which a 19-month-old child apparently ate crack cocaine off the floor at his mother's home. The mother then failed to seek immediate medical care for the child, authorities said.
Friday's arrest of Lott led DCS Commissioner Viola Miller to assemble a team of officials to oversee the work of the agency's Wilson County office.
A DCS spokesperson said the "leadership team" will closely review the agency's work in Wilson County, particularly as it regards the decision-making and whether "timely responses" are being made to complaints.
DCS spokesperson Andrea Turner said the team – which consists of officials from the agency's central office as well as its regional offices – will issue an evaluation of the agency's local job performance, though she declined to speculate on whether it could lead to personnel changes.
Turner said it is the first time Miller has ordered such stringent oversight for a DCS field office since assuming the post of commissioner more than a year ago.
Senior Staff Writer Brooks Franklin can be reached at 444-3952 ext. 14 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.