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Shelby County officials: At least 400 employees must retake psych evaluations

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A "flaw in the process in 2013" led to hundreds of Shelby County employees having to retake a psychological test in order to keep their jobs, county Mayor Lee Harris said Wednesday.

At least 214 deputy sheriff's officers and 188 jailers are affected, Sheriff Floyd Bonner said, and Harris said the list could include many other first responders who must receive an assessment by a licensed psychologist when they are hired by the county.

"We're reviewing every job that has this requirement as part of the job classification," Harris said. "We have to figure out the scope of this."

Dr. Charles Kenny was hired in 2013 to administer the test, but records show he has not been licensed in the state since 2001. According to a 2018 county contract, he was paid an amount not to exceed $40,000 for his services during the term of that contract.

Harris said the county had for years been under the understanding that Kenny would work under the supervision of someone who was licensed in Tennessee as a psychologist. But within the past few days, the state informed the county that arrangement wouldn't work.

Harris said since 2013, Kenny has done evaluations for people with the following jobs: Sheriff's deputies, Corrections deputies, dispatchers, process officers, firefighters, juvenile court detention officers and court officers.

"Obviously that was not good enough, and we have learned very recently that we're going to have to go back and look at this," Harris said.

Bonner said a new psychologist has been hired, and has tested about 50 new deputies. The county's new doctor already administers these tests to the Memphis Police Department, he said.

Bonner wasn't sure whether the issue would affect any of the past cases the sheriff's deputies had worked, but said he hopes all current officers pass the retest.

Harris said the county is researching whether there could be civil and criminal liability involved, and whether the county could recoup any of the money spent on testing.

The Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance confirmed recently that POST, the Peace Officer Standards & Training Commission, discovered in December that Kenny has not been licensed as a psychologist in Tennessee since 2001.

Kenny was hired by the county in 2013. He is listed as the president of a marketing firm called The Right Brain People. Its website boasts 600 big-name clients including Walmart and McDonald's and offers to "uncover the emotional connection between your brand and your consumers."

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