State Proposes Suspension Of Funeral Director
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Allegations of bodies being mishandled and customers being ripped off has a prominent funeral director in trouble with the state.
That funeral director now faces the possible suspension of his license, but he insisted that he's not going down without a fight.
The allegations against Columbia funeral director Alan Blevins of Williams Funeral Home were so serious that, just this week, the state funeral board approved a consent order to suspend his license for a full year, a spokesperson said.
That followed a six-month investigation by regulators.
But Blevins told NewsChannel 5 Investigates that he's not going to take the deal offered him by the state.
"This is about as low as it can go to sensationalize something that's to try to defame someone. This is all that this is for," Blevins said last summer.
That came after allegations were made in a complaint filed by attorneys for a former employee.
"We are alleging that people who had bought pre-need funeral packages were cheated, that merchandise was switched," said attorney Gary Blackburn.
Some of the more disturbing allegations stemmed from a fire that destroyed Williams Funeral Home in April 2012.
Blevins re-opened inside an old house, taking in unembalmed bodies for cremation, according to the affidavit of former employee Raymond Workman.
Workman claimed that "Blevins accepted bodies knowing that he lacked the proper refrigerated storage facilities."
"For a time, he stacked boxes with putrefying remains in an unrefrigerated back room," Workman added.
Workman's affidavit claimed that "the stench of these bodies was overpowering" -- adding that the deceased were even loaded into a van when state inspectors showed up. They were allegedly hauled to the nearby Polk Memorial Gardens and placed inside a shed that was not air-conditioned.
"We had to store people there, but only within the laws of the state of Tennessee -- hold them eight hours and then either take them to refrigeration units or crematory," Blevins said.
"So why not just put the body in a cooler?" NewsChannel 5 Investigates asked.
"We didn't have one at that facility. So we had to wait and decide if we were going to take them to embalm or are we going to take them for cremation. So sometimes it's a few hours, but it was never very long."
Still, after those allegations were made, the state sent investigators to Williams Funeral Home -- which led the funeral board to approve a proposed consent order.
The state told NewsChannel 5 that the proposed settlement called for Alan Blevins' license as a funeral director and as a funeral embalmer to be suspended for a year. He would face two separate civil penalties of 3,000 dollars each.
His crematory at Polk Memorial Gardens would face a separate 3,000 fine.
Blevins said that he still does not believe he's done anything wrong, so he's going to fight the suspension.
A spokesperson for the state says that, if Blevins refuses to sign the settlement, the state will initiate formal proceedings against him, and all of the state's evidence will be laid out for the public to see.
Even if the state does eventually take action against Blevins, that probably would not require Williams Funeral Home to shut down. Instead, it could mean that someone other than Alan Blevins would be running the show.