Report: CEO of company in child’s death pushed for deregulation as lawmaker

JONESBORO, Ark. – State Representative Dan Sullivan (R-Jonesboro) is the chief executive officer of the child care company in West Memphis where a 5-year-old boy was left in a hot van for eight hours and died on Monday.

In his role representing the 53rd district of Arkansas in the State Legislature, he has repeatedly pushed for deregulation of the child care industry as a lawmaker, a report by Little Rock television station KATV detailed Wednesday.

On Monday, 5-year-old Christopher Gardener of West Memphis died at Ascent Children’s Health Services in West Memphis. He was left in a van for eight hours. A report by Action News 5 in Memphis said four people were tasked to check the van and none of them did. The boy was falsely checked into class by the staff, the report alleges, as the child slowly died in the vehicle.

“This child was going to school and his parents were putting him on a bus,” said West Memphis Police Chief Donald Oakes. “No bad decisions. Just a horrible lack of effort on the part of people taking care of this child.”

170613-christopher-gardner-jr-van-death-se-428p_05b58f1336dbc21b1f88c0b184175101.nbcnews-ux-2880-1000 (1).jpg
A difficult life with a tragic end. The young boy had suffered through several surgeries and health woes in his young life, reports have said. Photo from WMC-TV

The CEO and state representative acknowledged the mistakes by employees in a statement.

“…we know our staff did not follow company policies and procedures, and if they had, this tragedy would not have occurred,” wrote Sullivan in a statement.

However, it is Sullivan who has personally pushed for less regulations in the child care industry in his capacity as state representative, KATV reported.

“Last April, Sullivan appeared before the Arkansas Early Childhood Commission and requested it reduce a new requirement that 50% of all child care employees at any facility be certified in CPR and first aid,” said the story.

When he didn’t get his way, Sullivan reportedly left the meeting vowing to address the very need for a commission at the next legislative session. He then sponsored a bill stripping the Arkansas Early Childhood Commission of its authority to regulate child care centers, KATV’s report said. As recently as February, Sullivan said he was taking a stand against the over regulation of the child care industry.

NEA Report reached out to Sullivan on Friday morning and asked him if he felt KATV’s report was accurate. We also asked him if he regretted pushing for less regulations in his industry. The messages were read on his personal Facebook profile via messenger but we did not receive a response after several hours.

Ascent has offered to pay for funeral services of the child, NBC News reported. 


Four employees were fired by the company. Their names have not been released to the media as of this publication.

A manslaughter investigation is presently underway into the four by the office of Second Judicial District Prosecuting Attorney Scott Ellington, he confirmed Friday, with Deputy Prosecutor Tom Young handling the investigation.

Follow NEA Report on Twitter and Facebook for the latest news developments from across Northeast Arkansas.

Support us on Patreon to help us grow.

Featured photo from Dan Sullivan’s personal Facebook profile. Story by Stan Morris.

1 Comment

  1. Came across this while researching Ascent. While apparently Sullivan has no shame, of a conscience, regretfully there is nothing I can do. Apparently the voters of his district are either ill-informed or do not care. To further illuminate this issue: the COO of Ascent at the time, James Cox, was installed as the CEO of Continued Care Hospital of Jonesboro. He has gone from milking Medicaid “for the children” at Ascent (they went out of business as a result of that incident) where he now presides over a much more profitable enterprise: insurance and Medicare. Killing elderly people in the process, but I guess that’s OK. I was nearly one of them, and I do resent it. Check out the victims’ site at

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.