Censured director’s wife bids to open funeral home

Tammy Qualls is working on site on South Yellow Springs Street

The funeral home at 823 S. Yellow Springs St., which was opened in 1958 by Dennis L. Porter, was recently informed by the Ohio Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors that its license would be suspended for 30 days for what the board has deemed “immoral or unprofessional conduct ... knowingly permitt(ing) an unlicensed person, other than a person serving an apprenticeship, to engage in the profession or business of embalming or funeral directing under the applicant’s or licensee’s supervision.”

The suspension begins Sept. 3 and ends Oct. 2; the vote was taken at the OBEFD board meeting held Monday, Aug. 16.

Woody A. Wilson, who served as funeral home manager and director at Porter-Qualls from July 2009 to January 2010, has had his embalmer and funeral director license suspended for a period of 45 days beginning Sept. 3 and ending Oct. 17.

The reasons for his suspension were the same as those given for the Porter-Qualls business and in addition, Wilson was cited “specifically for failing to serve in a full-time capacity as funeral home manager and a funeral director master as required and attested to with signatures,” the release stated.

Both actions came from evidence presented to the board at a Dec. 22 board meeting showing Wilson allowed James E. Qualls, an unlicensed staff member, to act as a funeral director without a license. It was determined Qualls performed duties including, but not limited to, arranging funeral services. according to the state board.

The Rev. John Freeman, owner of Porter-Qualls, said he will appeal the ruling.

“Our doors will not close on Sept. 3, 2010. Our attorney has filed an appeal. Porter-Qualls is operating properly and the alleged incidents of the past were out of our control. ...We, the entire staff of Porter-Qualls Funeral Home, wish to thank the people in the Springfield/Xenia area for utilizing our services. By the grace of God, we are here to serve this community and surrounding area with integrity honesty and love,” Freeman said.

Jim Qualls declined to be interviewed for this story.

A history

Porter-Qualls opened in 1958 and operated for decades under the leadership of founder Dennis Porter.

In 1998, the funeral home was purchased by Porter’s nephew and wife, Jim and Lisa Qualls.

Porter died in 2001 and the business went into receivership in 2005. The Martin Management Company was the court-appointed receiver.

Freeman, who was a long-time family friend and pastor of the Qualls, said he stepped in at the request Jim Qualls. Freeman established a company, A God of Second Chance, LLC and purchased Porter-Qualls’ Springfield and Xenia funeral homes locations from Martin in October 2007.

“I saw a need to keep a black business alive in this community,” Freeman said.

When Freeman purchased the funeral homes, Jim Qualls was already being investigated by the OBEFD regarding money missing from Porter-Qualls.

In 2007, the Franklin County Common Pleas Court ordered Jim Qualls to pay $67,023.94 to the Martin Management Company for misappropriation of monies from funeral contracts.

In October 2008, Jim Qualls was censured by the OBEFD for misappropriating clients’ money intended to prepay funeral expenses.

As part of a settlement, he voluntarily surrendered his embalmer and funeral director licenses for two years following charges of unprofessional or immoral conduct related to the misappropriation of money given to him by consumers to prepay their funeral services.

Qualls was ordered to cease embalming and funeral directing in 2008 and is eligible to reapply to the OBEFD for consideration of re-licensure this October.

During the many changes at Porter-Qualls, Lisa and Jim Qualls divorced, but they both remained as employees of Porter-Qualls.

Jim Qualls had worked at his family business since he was a teenager, and the new owner kept him on staff, but agreed to employ him in a capacity that fell within the parameters of the OBEFD ruling.

“I have every intention of keeping Jim (Qualls) on staff,” Freeman told the News-Sun in a previous interview, “but at the same time I will carefully abide by the mandates issued by the board.”

To be in compliance with Ohio law, Freeman initially hired Dean Washington, a Columbus-based funeral director, to run the Springfield operation. Washington remained for less than one year.

Troubles mount

Even though Jim Qualls surrendered his license, he continued to act as a funeral director, according to the OBEFD.

In February 2010, a preliminary injunction was filed in Clark County Common Pleas Court to prohibit Jim Qualls from “engaging in any acts or practices as a funeral director” and “violating any provision of R.C. Chapter 4717 or any rule promulgated thereunder.”

Qualls worked for a short period of time at the funeral director’s Columbus-based Marlan J. Gary Funeral Home Chapel of Peace.An exact employment period could not be verified. Gary declined to be interviewed for this story.

Gary is under investigation by the OBEFD for allegedly signing as many as 20 death certificates for deaths in Springfield at which he was not actually present.

According to Director Ann Cunningham, a hearing on the matter has been held and the organization is awaiting the results and recommendations of the board.

Earlier this year, a vendor’s license was issued in Clark County for the Marlan J. Gary Funeral Home Chapel of Peace to be located at the 1530 S. Yellow Springs address.

The owner of the property is listed as Tammy R. Qualls, LLC. Tammy Qualls is Jim Qualls’ wife.

The decision to open the business was strictly a business opportunity, she said.

The native Springfielder and South High School graduate has no background in the funeral industry, but said she has had family members experience what she called a lack of “professionalism and dignity” when seeking funeral services.

“Community members deserve courteousness and compassion and I don’t think they’re getting that right now,” she said.

On July 9, the OBEFD approved Tammy Qualls’ application for a funeral home license, but the funeral director listed was not Gary.

Dean Washington, formerly at Porter-Qualls, is named and the business will be called D. B. Washington Funeral Home Chapel of Peace and will be located at the South Yellow Springs address.

Tammy Qualls said the decision to realign was “out of respect for the relationship between Mr. Gary and my husband.” She said the two men are still good friends.

As far as Jim Qualls’ role at the new funeral home, that has not been defined, his wife said. She would not confirm whether Jim Qualls would reapply for a funeral director’s license in October.

She is currently working to get the building in the proper condition so the city can issue an occupancy permit. Once that permit has been issued, the OBEFD will send an inspector to the location for final inspection and approval.

If approval is granted at that time, the business will open.

Tammy Qualls offered no specific timeline, but said she is “moving forward with the project.”

Contact this reporter at (937) 328-0371 or elroberts@coxohio.com.

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