Commission Votes Down Family-Planning Rebid

By Bill Dries

Shelby County commissioners voted down a bid Monday, March 24, to rebid the county’s contract for federally funded family-planning services with Christ Community Health Services.

Shelby County Commissioners debated a proposed rebid of family planning services Monday but ultimately voted down the resolution by Commissioner Steve Mulroy.

(Daily News File/Andrew J. Breig)

Some commissioners branded Commissioner Steve Mulroy’s effort to urge County Mayor Mark Luttrell’s administration to rebid the contract as a political effort. Mulroy is taking criticism from former Commissioner Deidre Malone in the three-way Democratic primary race for county mayor for his vote in favor of the contract in 2011.

“It appears to be political fodder – which is OK. It’s the political season,” said Commissioner Mike Ritz. “But I can live without it. I don’t like it. I’m not running, and I don’t need it.”

“This is a waste of time,” Commissioner Chris Thomas added. “He needs the female vote.”

Mulroy counters that he voted for the contract after getting amendments added to track how the services are delivered. And Mulroy said he followed through with Monday’s resolution when he saw numbers that indicated to him that Christ Community Health Services wasn’t delivering those services to as many women as Planned Parenthood Greater Memphis Region, which previously had the grant.

“The political motivation is coming from those who are defending CCHS despite the numbers, simply because they like CCHS as an organization,” Mulroy said, faulting the county administration’s evaluation of the delivery of services.

Commissioner Terry Roland, meanwhile, called the resolution “political posturing.”

“Shame on you for trying to blow smoke up everybody’s hind end,” Roland said to Mulroy.

Malone contends the numbers Mulroy cites were apparent from the start. But some commissioners who voted against Monday’s resolution, along with county Chief Administrative Officer Harvey Kennedy, said Mulroy’s numbers were incorrect and based on unfair comparisons

“Certainly we do not support this resolution,” Kennedy said. “Quite frankly, it’s a little bit insulting to indicate that the results are anything other than an honest appraisal of the actual proposal. I’d like to remind you that when it comes to evaluating proposals, that’s all you have. You don’t get to evaluate their reputation, what your personal thoughts are, where there’s a religious connotation or not.”

The commission vote was 2-6, with Mulroy and Sidney Chism as the only yes votes.

“Shame on you for trying to blow smoke up everybody’s hind end.”

–Terry Roland
Shelby County Commission

Commissioner Walter Bailey was among those who abstained, saying earlier that he believed the contract “bears some review” but crediting Christ Community for its set of clinics in the city offering the services, which was a key factor in the 2011 decision to go with CCHS instead of Planned Parenthood.

“It does bear the stigma, like it or not, of abortion,” Bailey said of Planned Parenthood. “People might be hesitant of going in for services. It’s just like a person told me once, ‘I don’t want to walk down the sidewalk by the courthouse because I don’t want people to think I’ve got a case.’ I do think that some women dread going (to Planned Parenthood) because they think people will get the impression they are going in there for an abortion.”

The services covered in the Title 10 federal grant are for family-planning services that do not include abortion, no matter who the provider is.

In other action, third reading of a referendum ordinance by Roland to let voters decide whether to eliminate residency requirements for county employees and Shelby County Schools teachers failed on a 6-4 vote. It had also failed on the first two readings and needed a nine-vote, two-thirds majority.

Roland argued the measure should go to voters following the commission’s vote last year to grandfather in an exemption for Memphis City Schools teachers to the county residency requirement.

Other commissioners said they opposed county government jobs going to those who don’t live in Memphis, while still other commissioners thought grandfathering in the legacy MCS employees was as far as the commission should go in changing the residency requirement.