Why was a convicted felon working with developmentally disabled

Why was a convicted felon working with developmentally disabled adults in Knoxville?

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We captured video on April 29 of Charles Christopher Russell delivering residents from Rainbow Acres to Sunshine Industries. We captured video on April 29 of Charles Christopher Russell delivering residents from Rainbow Acres to Sunshine Industries.
Rainbow Acres in Fountain City is an adult group home for developmentally disabled adults. Rainbow Acres in Fountain City is an adult group home for developmentally disabled adults.
Charles Christopher Russell (source: TDOC) Charles Christopher Russell (source: TDOC)
By DON DARE
6 On Your Side Investigator

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - Men and women entrusted by the state with the responsibility of caring for seniors or the disabled are held to a higher standard.  Those with a prior criminal history often can't get jobs where they interact with vulnerable people.

Based on a tip, 6 News discovered a man who served over a decade in prison working with the disabled.

Around 7:15 each morning, a van leaves Rainbow Acres in Fountain City. It's an adult group home for developmentally disabled adults. Monday through Friday men and women are transported to Sunshine Industries in Knoxville, an agency operated by the ARC.

6 News was told in February that Charles Christopher Russell, 35, cared for residents at Rainbow Acres. Records from the State Department of Corrections show Russell served a 10-year prison sentence for especially aggravated robbery, among three other felony convictions.

We captured video on April 29 of Russell delivering residents from Rainbow Acres to Sunshine Industries. Within 24 hours after this video was taken, his employment with Rainbow Acres was terminated, more than two months after the state suggested that Russell be fired.

6 News spoke with a woman who worked with Russell. She asked we not disclose her identity. We will call her "Dawn." She says when she and Russell worked together at Rainbow Acres they performed similar duties at the adult group home .

"[Russell's responsibilities were] the same as mine. We gave them their breakfast lunch and dinner. We gave them their medicines, picked them up from work," said Dawn.

Dawn said that meant Russell had direct responsibility for the people at Rainbow Acres. However, Tennessee Baptist Adult Homes, which operates Rainbow Acres said in a letter to 6 News that Russell had no responsibilities for residents

The state says it received in January a complaint about Russell's employment, and that concerns were raised about his prison record.

The Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities sent in early February in a letter to Russell's employer stating: "We believe the interests of people [at Rainbow Acres] are best served if Charles Christopher Russell is not employed in a position that has direct contact or responsibility with residents."

Russell was still working with residents on April 29, despite the state's warning that Rainbow Acres could possibly lose its license.

We asked Dawn what staff members' reactions were when they found out about Russell's criminal history.

"They were shocked that he had been hired," said Dawn

Russell started working at Rainbow Acres a year ago. He got the job based on recommendations from members at Hickory Valley Baptist Church in Friendsville, where according to the church's pastor, Russell transported teens and adults on the church buses.    

Pastor Charles Carpenter told 6 News Russell was asked to leave the church in February after people raised concerns about his criminal record.

Residents at Rainbow Acres are employed at Sunshine Industries where dozens of people with intellectual disabilities work. There are no allegations Russell harmed any residents from Rainbow Acres.

In a letter to 6 News, Russell's employer said it conducted a criminal background, received positive character references and believed Russell was rehabilitated, but due to concerns, they said they "must follow the state's recommendation and terminate his employment."

We visited Russell's home. He has not responded to several requests for an interview. However, his friends tell 6 News that Russell believes his termination is unfair.

At Rainbow Acres, the state says there is no longer a threat of the facility losing its license now that Russell is not employed there.
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