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Editorial Results (free)

1. Wharton Eyes City Hall Shake-Up -

Facing specific criticism from political challengers that his administration is disorganized and hasn’t focused on priorities much past initial press conferences, Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr. acted this week to shake up his office starting at the top.

2. 2nd Lawsuit in Works Against Memphis Cemetery -

MEMPHIS (AP) – Relatives of three people buried at a Tennessee cemetery that is accused of mishandling bodies said Tuesday they don't know where their loved ones' remains are located because they were not allowed to see the caskets being lowered into the ground.

3. Judge Denies Lee’s Motion to Dismiss -

Former Memphis Light, Gas and Water Division president and CEO Joseph Lee is still at the center of legal wrangling over a six-figure settlement the city of Memphis paid him last year.

Shelby County Chancellor Arnold Goldin this week blocked an effort by Lee’s attorneys to dismiss a complaint the city filed against Lee to recover the more than $426,000 settlement.

4. Mayor at Heart of Consolidated Government -

A consolidated city and county government would have a strong metro mayor with centralized power.

The proposed metro charter that goes to voters on the Nov. 2 ballot chooses the strong mayor model from the existing city of Memphis charter over the mayoral model in the Shelby County charter.

5. How to Build a Government in 71 days -

The idea of consolidation is a political perennial in Memphis, but the details of merging Memphis and Shelby County governments are much more elusive.

The Metro Charter Commission’s formation last year represented the most meaningful move toward consolidation in almost 40 years.

6. Wharton Ditches Three Division Directors, Retains Others -

Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr. firmed up most of his division directors Tuesday.

He moved to reappoint seven division directors and notified three others they will not be reappointed in a possible realignment of their divisions.

7. Washington Firm Chosen to Fight Foreclosure Courtroom Battle -

Memphis and Shelby County governments have reloaded in preparation for a high-profile court battle over the area’s foreclosures and the lending practices that accompany them.

Relman & Dane PLLC, a Washington-based law firm, is the new outside counsel chosen to work with the two local governments in preparing, filing and litigating a long-delayed federal lawsuit. The firm is replacing a 30-year-old Montgomery, Ala.-based firm originally tapped as outside counsel for the suit, which will target a bevy of national mortgage lenders whose practices may have worsened the local foreclosure problem.

8. One Claim Dismissed For Lee, Others Linger -

A judge has dismissed claims filed this summer by a private citizen against the former president and CEO of Memphis Light, Gas and Water Division and two of his attorneys.

That ruling sets the stage for one more unusual turn of events in what’s been a sometimes bitter court fight over a legal settlement the city of Memphis paid this summer to former MLGW head Joseph Lee.

9. A City in Transition -

Just before sunrise on a rainy Tuesday morning, the armed officers raided the city office. They didn’t make any arrests, but they took files, interviewed employees and served search warrants. And they temporarily closed the Memphis Animal Shelter.

10. Herenton Grand Jury Hears From Four -

A federal grand jury probe believed to be an investigation of the private business affairs of former Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton heard from four witnesses Thursday.

The grand jury deliberations drew extra attention when it was revealed late Wednesday that former city attorney Elbert Jefferson – one of the witnesses who appeared before the panel – would be bringing with him a tape recording of Herenton. It was described in some media outlets as a “secret” recording of Herenton generated by an ethics investigation Jefferson conducted into the mayor.

11. UPDATE: Jefferson And Wade Testify At Herenton Grand Jury -

A federal grand jury probe believed to be an investigation of the private business affairs of former Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton appeared to be building Thursday.

Former city attorney Elbert Jefferson appeared before the panel Thursday morning with his attorney Ted Hansom. Jefferson had no comment on his testimony as he left the federal building approximately two hours after he arrived.

12. Herenton Reveals Target Letter From Feds -

About a week before Memphians went to the polls in the mayoral special election, former Mayor Willie Herenton got a letter from the U.S. Justice Department.

The so-called target letter officially acknowledges a months-long federal investigation into some of Herenton’s personal business deals while mayor, including his one-time ownership stake in the Downtown Greyhound bus station property.

13. Herenton Reveals "Target Letter" In Federal Probe -

About a week before Memphians went to the polls in the mayoral special election, former Mayor Willie Herenton got a letter from the U.S. Justice Department.

The so-called target letter officially acknowledges a months-long federal investigation into some of Herenton’s personal business deals while mayor, including his one-time ownership stake in the Downtown Greyhound bus station property.

14. Chaotic Council Welcomes Wharton To ‘Land of Fire’ -

Memphis Mayor-elect A C Wharton Jr. got an early welcome to the ways of City Hall in the week before he took the oath of office.

It came from the City Council he will serve with for the next two years.

15. Morris Confirmed As City Atty. -

Memphis Mayor elect A C Wharton Jr. was put to the test by Memphis City Council members before he even takes office.

The council approved his indirect nomination of Herman Morris as the new city attorney.

And it approved his five indirect nominees to the Metro Charter Commission.

But there was a lot of discussion among council members this afternoon and evening about:

-Morris being paid $140,000 a year as city attorney, $15 thousand more than his predecessor, Elbert Jefferson.

-Whether Morris was the choice of outgoing Mayor Pro Tempore Myron Lowery or Wharton. The answer was Wharton with Lowery making the appointment since he is still mayor.

In another rapid move, Wharton and Lowery teamed up to appoint the five city of Memphis representatives to the Metro Charter Commission. All five nominees were recommended by members of the City Council. Normally, the council votes on such groups of nominees to one body with a single vote on the slate. The council voted separately on all five.

The original five nominees were:

-Damon Griffin, an assistant District Attorney General.

-Carmen Sandoval, an administrative director at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

-Steve Ross, a freelance video and technical director who also has a popular political blog.

-Jim Strickland, attorney and Memphis city council member.

-Rev. Ralph White, pastor of Bloomfield Full Gospel Baptist Church and candidate for Shelby County Criminal Court Clerk in past elections as well as in the 2010 elections.

Strickland was named just this week to Wharton’s transition team. But he is giving up the transition team spot to serve on the charter group. Council members Bill Boyd and Joe Brown voted against Strickland’s appointment saying they considered it to be a conflict of interest for an elected official to serve on the commission. Brown didn’t vote on the other nominations. Council member Wanda Halbert passed on Strickland.

Ross encountered vocal resistance during committee sessions from council members upset with critical comments he has made on his blog about council members. Council member Shea Flinn, who recommended Ross, came to his defense during an emotional committee discussion – clashing with Brown as Lowery and Wharton watched from the end of the council committee table.

“I’m a real man,” Brown told Flinn at the end of the exchange. “I’m a real black man. I hope you are a real white man.”

By the time the council voted, Wharton and Lowery decided to pull his nomination and instead nominated Richard Smith, a FedEx executive and son of FedEx founder Fred Smith. Council member Janis Fullilove was the only no vote. Halbert recused herself because she works at FedEx. Brown and Boyd did not vote.

...

16. Wharton Picks Morris for City Attorney Post -  

Memphis Mayor elect A C Wharton Jr. was put to the test by Memphis City Council members before he even takes office.

The council Tuesday approved his indirect nomination of Herman Morris as the new city attorney. And it approved his five indirect nominees to the Metro Charter Commission.

But there was a lot of discussion among council members this afternoon and evening about:

  • Morris being paid $140,000 a year as city attorney, $15 thousand more than his predecessor, Elbert Jefferson.
  • Whether Morris was the choice of outgoing Mayor Pro Tempore Myron Lowery or Wharton. The answer was Wharton with Lowery making the appointment since he is still mayor.

In another rapid move, Wharton and Lowery teamed up to appoint the five city of Memphis representatives to the Metro Charter Commission. All five nominees were recommended by members of the City Council. Normally, the council votes on such groups of nominees to one body with a single vote on the slate. The council voted separately on all five.

The original five nominees were:

  • Damon Griffin, an assistant District Attorney General.
  • Carmen Sandoval, an administrative director at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
  • Steve Ross, a freelance video and technical director who also has a popular political blog.
  • Jim Strickland, attorney and Memphis city council member.
  • Rev. Ralph White, pastor of Bloomfield Full Gospel Baptist Church and candidate for Shelby County Criminal Court Clerk in past elections as well as in the 2010 elections.

Strickland was named just this week to Wharton’s transition team. But he is giving up the transition team spot to serve on the charter group. Council members Bill Boyd and Joe Brown voted against Strickland’s appointment saying they considered it to be a conflict of interest for an elected official to serve on the commission. Brown didn’t vote on the other nominations. Council member Wanda Halbert passed on Strickland.

Ross encountered vocal resistance during committee sessions from council members upset with critical comments he has made on his blog about council members. Council member Shea Flinn, who recommended Ross, came to his defense during an emotional committee discussion – clashing with Brown as Lowery and Wharton watched from the end of the council committee table.

“I’m a real man,” Brown told Flinn at the end of the exchange. “I’m a real black man. I hope you are a real white man.”

By the time the council voted, Wharton and Lowery decided to pull his nomination and instead nominated Richard Smith, a FedEx executive and son of FedEx founder Fred Smith. Council member Janis Fullilove was the only no vote. Halbert recused herself because she works at FedEx. Brown and Boyd did not vote.

...

17. City Mayoral Transition Yields Crowded To-Do List -  

Memphis Mayor-elect A C Wharton Jr. will be appointing a new city attorney once he takes office next week.

Elbert Jefferson, the city attorney Mayor Pro Tem Myron Lowery tried to fire just minutes after taking the oath of office on July 31, Friday sent a second resignation letter to Lowery. The two met for an hour Sunday evening at City Hall and Lowery accepted Jefferson’s resignation.

Jefferson’s attorney, Ted Hansom, and city Chief Administrative Officer Jack Sammons were also present. Jefferson turned in his key card, the keys to his city car and his laptop.

“The drama is over,” Lowery said Monday. “For my part, I wish it had never happened.”

Dramatis personae

In a resignation letter last week to Wharton, Jefferson had expressed hope that he would be hired for some position in the new administration. Over the weekend, he used the same text in the new letter but addressed it to Lowery instead. He requested the city pay his legal fees as well.

The resignation letter to Lowery made moot an ouster suit filed by Shelby County District Attorney General Bill Gibbons. Criminal Court Judge James Lammey, who was to hear the case, reset a final report to Oct. 27, citing Jefferson’s departure.

“A hearing on the issue of suspension would be an inefficient use of judicial resources, of the state of Tennessee and of the resources of the city of Memphis, and considering (Jefferson’s) current health status, would be an unnecessary tax on (Jefferson’s) well-being and a possible threat to his health,” Lammey wrote in the court order.

Jefferson was scheduled to return to City Hall from sick leave Monday. He apparently believed the new mayor would be in office by the time he returned.

An audit of city financial affairs is standard procedure in a change of administrations. Wharton is naming team members to review the offices of the city attorney, human resources and finance and administration. He was also to name members of his transition team Monday.

Time-, battle-tested

Shelby County Commissioner Mike Carpenter and Methodist Healthcare executive Cato Johnson will head the team.

The other members are:

- Herman Morris, attorney and 2007 candidate for Memphis Mayor.

- Tomeka Hart, Memphis Urban League CEO and Memphis school board member.

- Jim Strickland, attorney and Memphis City Council member.

- Rev. Dwight Montgomery, Southern Christian Leadership Conference Memphis chapter President.

- Jose Velasquez, Latino Memphis former executive director.

- Nisha Powers, Powers Hill Design Inc. President.

- Paul Morris, attorney and former chairman Center City Commission.

- Douglas Scarboro, The Leadership Academy vice president.

- Steve Reynolds, Baptist Memorial Health Care Corp. CEO.

- Diane Rudner, Plough Foundation chairman.

- Darrell Cobbins, Universal Commercial CEO.

Johnson has more experience serving on such task forces and ad hoc committees than any other leader in the city’s corporate community. Most recently, Johnson was one of two business leaders on the ad hoc committee exploring single-source local funding for education. He also served as a leader of the Mid-South Fairgrounds renovation committee and has been involved in similar capacities with every major construction project for a civic use in the past 15 years.

Carpenter’s appointment is certain to fuel speculation that he might be tapped for some role in the new administration. However, Carpenter has already been holding fundraisers in anticipation of a bid for re-election to his commission seat in the 2010 county elections.

Wharton is tentatively scheduled to take the oath of office Oct. 26.

The Shelby County Commission also meets that same day and could receive Wharton’s resignation and declare a vacancy in the county mayor’s office with a vote to appoint Wharton’s successor-to-come in November. Until that vote, County Commission Chairwoman Joyce Avery will serve as interim mayor.

“It will be a day in which I come to work at one place and leave work from another place,” Wharton told The Daily News.

But the Shelby County Election Commission will meet earlier than expected -- Thursday afternoon -- to certify the Oct. 15 election results. Once the results are certified, Wharton is free to resign as Shelby County mayor and take the oath as Memphis mayor.

Cooperative efforts

Meanwhile, Wharton has asked City Council Chairman Harold Collins to consider delaying a council vote today on the five appointees the city mayor is to make to a metro charter commission. The council set today’s vote with the intention of having whomever won the Oct. 15 special election appoint members of the panel.

“I won’t be there on the 20th. … I’m seeing if they are in a position to put it off until I’m actually over there,” Wharton told The Daily News, as he has had attorneys researching if a council vote in November would meet timelines for such an effort set out in state law.

“I believe that they may be able to meet on Nov. 3,” Wharton said.

Wharton has already named the 10 appointees to be made by the Shelby County mayor to the panel. The County Commission approved all 10 earlier this month.

While it appears he will make the other five, Wharton said he will ask the council, through Collins, to effectively pick the five nominees, whom Wharton would then send to the council as his appointees.

“I chose all 10 over here, which I had to do by law. If I could find some way around it that passed legal muster, then I would do that,” he said. “But we’ve researched it and I know of no way in which the city mayor can say … ‘I’m not going to do that.’ You can’t transfer it.”

Wharton and Lowery were to discuss the matter at a meeting Monday afternoon. Lowery told The Daily News he had received no suggested appointees from council members, but would be willing to submit names the council wants on the charter commission.

...

18. Update: City Attorney Resigns -

The day after Shelby County Mayor AC Wharton Jr. beat his rivals handily in the city mayoral special election, embattled City Attorney Elbert Jefferson Jr. offered his resignation.

Wharton anticipates taking office no sooner than Oct. 26, which would leave the city’s law division under the control of Deputy City Atty. Veronica Coleman-Davis for now.

In his resignation letter to Wharton, Jefferson volunteered to step aside as head of the division but said he wants to continue working for the city in some capacity. His request comes in the wake of a simmering feud between the temporary city administration of Mayor Pro Tem Myron Lowery, who soon will return to his Memphis City Council seat, and the legal division, with the city administration finding several recent decisions out of the office to be questionable.

A suspension hearing had been scheduled for Monday by state prosecutors in Shelby County Criminal Court, during which they were seeking to have Jefferson stripped of his duties. Shelby County Dist. Atty. Gen. Bill Gibbons’ office started an ouster proceeding against Jefferson under a little-used provision of state law that allows public officials who are found to have neglected their duties to be removed from office.

Jefferson resisted Lowery’s attempts to remove him, which included being told to leave City Hall the day Lowery took his oath of office this summer. Jefferson, locked out of the building, filed and won a Chancery Court injunction that allowed him to continue working, and the matter went to the City Council.

The Council declined to give Jefferson the boot. Since around Labor Day, he’s been out on sick leave.

The full text of his resignation letter is as follows:

Dear Mayor Wharton:

Let me first congratulate you on your election as Mayor of this great city. Please accept my most sincere best wishes for a successful administration.

I fully recognize your right and desire to appoint division directors who you believe will best further the objectives of your administration, and I am therefore tendering herewith my resignation as the City Attorney (Legal Division/Director) of Memphis, Tennessee, to be effective immediately.

Though I am presently on sick leave, it is my hope that I will be released to return to work with the city of Memphis on Monday, October 19, 2009. As you may be aware, I have a number of years of service with the City of Memphis and its various agencies and in light of that and other personal and business considerations, it would be my desire to continue my service to the citizens in some capacity. While I fully recognize that my employment with the City of Memphis is by virtue of an appointment and not pursuant to any civil service provision, I would request that you consider my continued service to the City in some capacity which you may feel appropriate. Under the circumstances, I would ask that you or your representative advise me at your earliest opportunity as to your desires with regards to that employment so that I may take appropriate action with regard to benefits to which I may be entitled.

I may be contacted prior to Monday morning at my cell number which is available through the City Attorney’s office. In the absence of advice from you or your representative to the contrary, I will report to the office of the City Attorney on Monday morning assuming I am released to do so by my physician.

Yours very truly,

Elbert Jefferson Jr.

...

19. Update: City Attorney Elbert Jefferson Resigns -

The day after Shelby County Mayor AC Wharton Jr. beat his rivals handily in the city mayoral special election, embattled City Attorney Elbert Jefferson Jr. offered his resignation.

Wharton anticipates taking office no sooner than Oct. 26, which would leave the city’s law division under the control of Deputy City Atty. Veronica Coleman-Davis for now.

20. Halbert Files Ethics Complaint Against Deputy City Atty. -

Memphis City Councilwoman Wanda Halbert has filed complaints with the state disciplinary board for lawyers against Deputy City Attorney Veronica Coleman-Davis and a private attorney working for the city.

21. New Firm Sought In Lender Action -

Memphis and Shelby County governments are looking for a new law firm to represent them in a potentially high-profile lawsuit they’re planning against a group of national mortgage lenders.

Both governments’ original choice for outside counsel, a 30-year-old Montgomery, Ala.-based firm, recently decided to step aside. Little explanation accompanied the departure of Beasley, Allen, Crow, Methvin, Portis & Miles PC, although it followed months of private negotiations over the terms of representing both local governments.

22. Lowery Notches Up Credentials as Election Nears -

Myron Lowery has about a week to go in his tenure as Memphis’ mayor pro tem depending on how long it takes to certify the Oct. 15 election results.

23. Jefferson in Limbo Until After Election -

Elbert Jefferson Jr. remains the city attorney – in name only.

Shelby County Criminal Court Judge James Lammey accepted a consent order Monday morning signed by Jefferson’s attorney, Thomas Hansom, and Shelby County Dist. Atty. Gen. Bill Gibbons’ office.

24. Inconsistencies Lurk in Jefferson Ouster Effort -

City Attorney Elbert Jefferson Jr. is due in court Tuesday to face state prosecutors who filed a petition this week seeking his removal from office.

Shelby County District Atty. Gen. Bill Gibbons’ office filed the action in Shelby County Criminal Court under a provision of state law that gives him the power to bring an ouster suit against certain public officials. The AG can seek their removal from office if they are found to have committed misconduct or neglected their duties.

25. UPDATE: Gibbons Files Ouster Petition Against Jefferson -

One of the final legal tasks Elbert Jefferson Jr. is likely to face as City Attorney is his response to a move by state prosecutors to oust him.

Shelby County Dist. Atty. Gen. Bill Gibbons' office has filed a petition in Criminal Court seeking Jefferson's removal, and a hearing has been set for Oct. 6. That development comes about two weeks after prosecutors in Gibbons' office issued four subpoenas to city officials asking for details of recent decisions by Jefferson.

26. Jefferson Ouster Has A Court Date -

One of the final legal tasks Elbert Jefferson Jr. is likely to face as City Attorney is his response to a move by state prosecutors to oust him.

Shelby County Dist. Atty. Gen. Bill Gibbons' office has filed a petition in Criminal Court seeking Jefferson's removal, and a hearing has been set for Oct. 6. That development comes about two weeks after prosecutors in Gibbons' office issued four subpoenas to city officials asking for details of recent decisions by Jefferson.

27. City Attorney Out of Office Past Mayoral Election -

Embattled Memphis City Attorney Elbert Jefferson Jr. has turned in paperwork signaling he’ll be out on sick leave through Oct. 19, four days after Memphians go to the polls to elect a new mayor and, potentially, a new boss for Jefferson.

28. City Drills Away At Recouping Lee Fees -

The city of Memphis has taken the first step toward recouping settlement money paid in July to the former head of Memphis Light, Gas and Water Division.

The city has filed a motion to join a lawsuit by attorney Ronald Krelstein, who brought his suit against the city and others shortly after the city paid $426,422 to former MLGW president and CEO Joseph Lee.

29. City Gives Second Thought to Lee Settlement -

Shortly before Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton retired in July, the city paid more than $426,000 to settle a lawsuit with the former head of the city-owned utility company.

But the city now wants to recover some or all of the money awarded to Joseph Lee, the former president and CEO of Memphis Light, Gas and Water Division.

30. Vote Wisely, Remember Mayor’s Post Is Temporary -

Among the 25 people seeking to become Memphis’ next mayor, the ideal candidate does not exist. Even the more serious contenders, who are a minority in the record-setting group, lack the overall vision and ability to get things done.

31. A Mayor’s Race to Remember: Candidates pump up the drama as election nears -

The field is set at 25 candidates and Memphians start voting Sept. 25 in a mayor’s race that has been neither a surprise nor the expected.

But there’s no guarantee the election will settle what the post-Willie Herenton era will look like. Too many other events still have to be decided.

32. Political Fault Lines Illuminated In City Attorney Feud -

City Attorney Elbert Jefferson never got the chance to make his case before the Memphis City Council this week. But he did get to keep his job as the council voted down 4-7 a resolution to oust him.

33. Majority Rules In Metro Charter Commission Accord -

Nearly four decades of little more than talk about city-county consolidation is at an end.

With this week’s 11-0 Memphis City Council vote, a metro charter commission will be formed and the group’s consolidation proposal will go to local voters in November 2010.

34. Metro Charter Commission Gets Council Go -

The Memphis City Council has approved the creation of a metro charter commission.

The 11-0 vote at Tuesday’s council session makes the consolidation effort the most significant in nearly 40 years. The resolution’s passage means the 15 member commission will be appointed by both mayors – city of Memphis and Shelby County. The charter commission will come up with a charter for a consolidated government that will then go to voters for approval in Nov. 2010.

35. UPDATE: Council Completes Action On Metro Charter Group -

The Memphis City Council has approved the creation of a Metro Charter Commission.

The 11-0 vote at Tuesday’s council session makes the consolidation effort the most significant in nearly 40 years. The resolution’s passage means the 15 member commission will be appointed by both mayors – city of Memphis and Shelby County. The charter commission will come up with a charter for a consolidated government that will then go to voters for approval in Nov. 2010.

36. Today’s Council Activities Expected to Be ‘Ugly’ -

One of the final battles in a political war that’s engulfed the city’s legal division since August is likely to get under way today.

City Attorney Elbert Jefferson Jr. told Memphis City Council Chairman Harold Collins late last week he plans to appear before the council today to defend some of his recent actions.

37. Gibbons Launches Investigation of City Attorney Jefferson -

Shelby County Dist. Atty. Gen. Bill Gibbons has opened an investigation into the controversy surrounding embattled City Attorney Elbert Jefferson Jr.

38. Jefferson, Boyd in Council Crosshairs -

A resolution will come before the Memphis City Council Tuesday authorizing Memphis Mayor Pro Tem Myron Lowery to immediately remove City Attorney Elbert Jefferson from office.

39. Update: City Attorney Out Rest Of Week - Memphis Mayor Pro Tem Myron Lowery’s scheduled meeting with City Attorney Elbert Jefferson will have to wait until next week at the earliest.

Jefferson and Lowery had been scheduled to meet Tuesday, but the embattled city attorney called in sick. He also called in sick Wednesday and indicated he would be out for the rest of this week.

Jefferson’s fate appears to be in question after last week’s revelation that he authorized a more than $55,000 payment to the lawyer of former Mayor Willie Herenton shortly before Herenton retired at the end of July. At a press conference Tuesday afternoon, Lowery declined to say what he planned to talk about with Jefferson.

Jefferson’s future is also likely to be a hot topic at Tuesday’s City Council meeting.

Councilman Bill Morrison appears set to introduce a resolution authorizing Lowery to immediately remove Jefferson from office. The draft language of the resolution cites Jefferson’s “approval of a rushed payment of city funds” to Herenton’s attorney “in a private matter” and Jefferson’s failure to notify Lowery and Lowery’s chief administrative officer, Jack Sammons.

The resolution reads, in part:

“Whereas, recent revelations that the current city attorney and chief ethics officer Elbert Jefferson is being investigated by federal authorities about his approval of a rushed payment of $55,000 of city funds to an attorney hired to represent Willie W. Herenton in a private matter; his failure to notify the mayor pro tem and CAO that he had been questioned by the FBI about such actions; and his failure to notify his superiors, Mayor Pro Tem and CAO, that records involving the aforementioned payment were recently subpoenaed by the grand jury, cause great concern about the city attorney’s abilities and judgment.

“Now, therefore, be it resolved that the Memphis City Council urges Mayor Pro Tem Lowery to immediately remove Elbert Jefferson from the Office of City Attorney based on these questionable practices.”

In an interview with The Daily News Tuesday night, Herenton took issue with the description of the payment to Robert Spence as “rushed.”

The word "RUSH" is stamped on a check request Jefferson approved for Spence's payment. But Herenton said many of the contracts he left unsigned or requests unauthorized were rushed by various city division directors.

“In my 17 years, I bet you I've signed hundreds of rushed (requests). But in the newspaper it became 'Herenton's trying to get his legal fees paid,'” Herenton said.

Jefferson was the last of four city attorneys Herenton worked with in his more than 17 years as mayor. Herenton praised Jefferson’s work and said he has become a victim of “ruthless, reckless politics.”

“I have nothing but respect for Elbert,” Herenton said. “It is unfortunate that he finds himself caught up in the political arena, where Mayor Pro Tem Lowery is exercising some vindictiveness.”

Lowery told The Daily News Tuesday night that Jefferson’s recent questioning about the Spence payment by FBI agents backs up Lowery’s actions and comments.

Spence’s work involved representing the former mayor during an investigation whose subject appeared to wander over the past year.

It included Herenton's one-time option to buy the land where the Greyhound bus terminal now stands on Union Avenue. Some recent grand jury testimony focused on money paid to Herenton aide Pete Aviotti by business leaders for Herenton's annual Christmas party.

Spence told The Daily News earlier this week his client has not received a letter from prosecutors or any other type of notification that Herenton is the target of the investigation. Prosecutors sometimes make such a notification, but it is not required.

Jefferson, meanwhile, is not the only person who may be on the hot seat Tuesday before the City Council. Another resolution has been drafted that seeks to vacate Councilman Bill Boyd’s seat.

That resolution, sponsored by Councilman Joe Brown, reads:

“Whereas, it has been reported that council member William Boyd has attempted to intervene in a lawsuit challenging the authority of the mayor of Memphis and the city attorney to settle a lawsuit; and whereas the charter prohibits any council member interfering with the mayor’s administrative powers; and whereas the charter provides that any council member that interferes with the mayor’s administrative powers may be removed from office.

“Now, therefore, be it resolved that the position held by William Boyd, councilman, District 2, be declared vacant for violating the city charter or, alternatively, that the city take such court action necessary to have him removed from office.”
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Boyd has filed a motion to intervene in a bitter court fight involving a legal settlement between the city and former Memphis Light, Gas and Water Division chief Joseph Lee. In a motion to dismiss the complaint Boyd wants to be part of, Jefferson said the city was appropriately exercising its authority in settling the suit Lee filed.

Boyd disagrees and thinks the more than $426,000 paid to Lee should be recovered by the city.

“The plain language of the charter gives the mayor and city attorney exclusive power and authority to settle lawsuits if the city is a party to such suits,” Jefferson’s motion reads. “This power is not subject to approval of the Memphis City Council or the public.”

Without mentioning Boyd’s request to intervene in the case, Jefferson’s motion to dismiss also cites a section of the city charter that prohibits council members from interfering with the operation of the city’s administrative departments.

The charter goes on to stipulate that the office of any council member found to be in violation of that part of the charter could be vacated.

...

40. UPDATE: City Attorney Controversy Gets Uglier -

Memphis Mayor Pro Tem Myron Lowery’s scheduled meeting with City Attorney Elbert Jefferson will have to wait until next week at the earliest.

41. Beale Street Report Overshadowed by Wilkins Flap - The handing over of the case files is still being worked out. So is a motion for a change of counsel. And the final invoice from attorney Ricky E. Wilkins for his work on the Chancery Court case involving the Beale Street Entertainment District is yet to come.

The decision by Memphis Mayor Pro Tem Myron Lowery to replace Wilkins comes at a crucial time in the long-running case.

Special Chancellor Don Harris is about to unseal a report on the entertainment district that has already been partially leaked. The report from Philadelphia accounting firm Parente Randolph was being prepared for release late last week as Wilkins and Lowery began a testy e-mail exchange that ended with Lowery firing Wilkins earlier this week.

For the past year or so of former Mayor Willie Herenton’s tenure, the city, represented by Wilkins, was zealously pursuing an accounting of money from Beale Street since 2002.

Money pit

The money is supposed to flow from the nightclubs on Beale Street to management company Performa Entertainment to the Beale Street Development Corp. and finally to the city. The money hasn’t flowed to the city at all, even though the city owns the district. On that, all sides agree.

The BSDC is the nonprofit board that holds the lease from the city, and Performa has a contract to run, manage and develop Beale Street with the BSDC.

Performa CEO John Elkington contends the district wasn’t profitable for a long time after its dedication in late 1983. Elkington said he and Performa put their own money into it. Under his contract, Elkington said he can and should recoup the money when the district turns a profit.

Wilkins contended in court that Performa mingled the Beale Street money with Performa ventures in other cities. It’s an allegation Elkington has adamantly denied.

“That’s nowhere in the report,” Elkington said in his only positive reference to the Parente Randolph findings.

Advocacy wars

The report by Paul Pocalyko, a principal of the accounting and consulting firm, concluded Performa owed the city of Memphis more than $6 million in profits from the district.

Press reports of Pocalyko’s multimillion-dollar bottom line had the political effect of stalling plans by Lowery to settle the lawsuit and fire City Attorney Elbert Jefferson.

“My overall goal is to save the taxpayers money,” Lowery said this week, denying that he is trying to “squash” the accounting of profits from the district. “If this case can be settled, I want it settled. If it must go to court, then it will go to court. But the overall goal is to improve the efficiency of this city.”

Elkington has been Beale Street’s developer since the district between Second and Fourth streets reopened 25 years ago.

“They spent $500,000 on an audit that is not an audit,” he said.

Elkington recently hired attorney John C. Speer, a member of Bass, Berry & Sims PLC, to represent Performa.

Speer wouldn’t comment on the content of the Pocalyko report.

But he said, in general, the report mistakenly counted revenue, to the tune of millions of dollars, as due the city.

“That document is not an audit. It’s an opinion,” Speer said. “We are disappointed that it wasn’t an audit because we think an audit would have a credibility that would have supported the conclusion we have that there’s not any money owed to the city.”

Earlier this week, Speer was awaiting his own full copy of the report and both sides were still arguing about what would be redacted from it.

“The conclusions and opinions in there are not supported by fact,” Speer said. “They are opinions that are designed to support the position taken by the city’s attorney.”

That included approximately $2 million merchants made from selling wristbands over the seven-year period starting in 2002. The wristband sales allow patrons to get in several clubs for one cover charge.

“That money never goes to us. That’s $2.1 million,” Elkington told The Daily News. “So a third of what they are alleging went to the merchants.”

Another $900,000 was disallowed because it was a credit some tenants were given on their rent after they made property improvements. But Performa claims it has a 1991 letter with then-city chief administrative officer Greg Duckett approving the credit arrangement.

“What they’re trying to do is rewrite the lease,” Elkington said. “We’ve always said, ‘If we owe some money, we’ll pay it.’ … Right now, this is stuff that is conjecture.”

‘Black hole’

Lowery has said one of his first actions on taking office was to direct city Chief Administrative Officer Jack Sammons to find a way to settle the Beale Street lawsuit.

A settlement had been one of three priorities – along with a Mid-South Fairgrounds redevelopment contract and an agreement for Bass Pro Shops to develop The Pyramid – Herenton had set for his final weeks in office but never achieved.

Lowery had the same goal for his tenure, which lasts until the special election on Oct. 15 if he doesn’t win the right to fill out Herenton’s term.

Lowery’s immediate concern was millions of dollars the city was paying outside attorneys to pursue litigation. That concern was why Lowery tried to fire Jefferson within minutes of taking the oath of office on July 31. He held Jefferson responsible for what he termed a “black hole” of legal expenses approved on Jefferson’s watch as city attorney.

Lowery mentioned prominently the $35,000 a month to Wilkins and his law firm for work on the Beale Street case.

...

42. Herenton Talks About Legal Fees -

To former Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton, his successor's recent statements and actions surrounding the city's legal division amount to "ruthless, reckless politics with a vengeance."

It was Herenton's first public comment since the disclosure last week the city paid more than $55,000 in legal expenses for him shortly before he retired as mayor at the end of July.

43. Wilkins Off Beale Street Case -

Memphis Mayor Myron Lowery has dismissed attorney Ricky E. Wilkins as the city’s attorney in a long-standing civil suit over the Beale Street Entertainment District.

44. Wilkins Out As City's Beale Street Attorney -

Memphis Mayor Myron Lowery has dismissed attorney Ricky E. Wilkins as the city’s attorney in a long standing civil suit over the Beale Street Entertainment District.

45. Legal Fee Controversy Involves More Than Just Jefferson -

A political war is erupting in city government over the fees billed by outside attorneys and law firms that do contract work for the city.

Representatives of those firms during the past several days have been called in for private meetings with the administration of Memphis Mayor Pro Tem Myron Lowery.

46. Lowery Says Jefferson Ouster Up To City Council -

Memphis Mayor Pro Tempore Myron Lowery said Saturday that it will be up to the City Council to resurrect the issue of firing City Attorney Elbert Jefferson.

47. Councilman Wants to Be Part of Complaint Against Lee -

Memphis City Councilman Bill Boyd has asked a judge for permission to join the bitter court fight over the legal bills of former Memphis Light, Gas and Water Division chief Joseph Lee.

48. Barlow Leaves UNDC To Build Law Practice -

Memphis attorney Steve Barlow has left his full-time position as executive director of the neighborhood group that promotes revitalization around the University of Memphis.

49. Tempers Flare As Goldin Dissolves Order in Lee Case -

Shelby County Chancellor Arnold Goldin has dissolved an order requiring the former president and CEO of Memphis Light, Gas and Water Division and his attorneys not to spend money they got from a legal settlement with the city of Memphis.

50. UPDATE: Tempers Flare As Goldin Dissolves Order In Lee Case -

Shelby County Chancellor Arnold Goldin has dissolved an order that would have required former MLGW president and CEO Joseph Lee and his attorneys not to spend money they got from a legal settlement with the city of Memphis.

51. Candidates Announced For Judicial Nominating Commission -

The recently renamed Judicial Nominating Commission, formerly the Judicial Selection Commission, on Friday released the names of the applicants for the 17-member commission.

Approximately 237 attorneys, judges and citizens from throughout Tennessee applied for the commission, which is charged with creating lists of potential judicial appointees for the Tennessee Supreme Court, the Tennessee Court of Appeals and the Tennessee Criminal Court of Appeals.

52. Herenton to Run for Mayor – and Congress -

By walking to a counter at the Shelby County Election Commission Thursday and asking for a piece of paper, former Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton has again surprised political observers.

Herenton pulled a qualifying petition to run for mayor in the Oct. 15 special election. It is the election caused by Herenton’s earlier decision to resign from the mayor’s office to run for Congress in the 2010 Democratic primary.

53. BREAKING NEWS: Herenton Pulls Petition In Mayor's Race -

By walking to a counter at the Shelby County Election Commission Thursday and asking for a piece of paper, former Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton has again surprised political observers.

Herenton pulled a qualifying petition to run for mayor in the Oct. 15 special election. It is the election caused by Herenton’s earlier decision to resign from the mayor’s office to run for Congress in the 2010 Democratic primary.

In a written statement, Herenton said he still intends to run for Congress next year.?"However, during the interim, recent events have compelled me to step forth to provide leadership and express my sincere feelings on how our city can continue to move forward, despite our current dilemma,” he wrote. “My recent retirement from the office of mayor has created this situation and I feel obligated to seek alternatives to Myron Lowery and an ‘anyone can win’ mayoral race.”

At another point in the letter, Herenton also writes, “We cannot allow Mayor Pro Tem Lowery to be elected mayor during the upcoming special election.” And he accuses Lowery of a “reckless style of leadership.”

Herenton also said he wants a referendum on a proposal to change the City Charter to limit the powers of the mayor pro tempore. The position was created by a charter amendment Memphis voters approved just last year. The position is held by whomever is City Council chairman when a mayor resigns.

 

Back again

Herenton picked up the petition himself, according to the ledger at the Election Commission. He has until Sept. 3 to file it. He could also choose not to follow through.

In announcing his resignation, Herenton said he didn’t believe in holding one office while running for another. Some political advisers, however, urged Herenton to stay in the mayor’s office as he ran for Congress to strengthen his political position.

“I have always been opposed to such behavior by public officials,” Herenton said at the June 25 press conference. “And if I follow the same course of conduct that I have criticized in the past, it would subject me to the same criticisms that I have publicly stated about others.”

Herenton could run for mayor and run for Congress next year as well.

Even as he left City Hall last month, Herenton told reporters he wasn’t happy with the field of contenders to this point in the race. They include Lowery, Shelby County Mayor A C Wharton Jr., attorney Charles Carpenter, City Council member Wanda Halbert and former City Council member Carol Chumney.

 

Drama and beginnings

Herenton initially planned to resign effective July 10 but pushed back his resignation date to July 30, in part, because he was miffed that Lowery had appointed a transition team before July 10. Lowery backed off and there was virtually no cooperation in the transition of power.

When Lowery tried to fire City Attorney Elbert Jefferson after taking office, Jefferson – a Herenton appointee – contested his dismissal and filed a Chancery Court lawsuit that is still pending against Lowery. Jefferson filed the lawsuit in the name of the city of Memphis.

“The mayor is free to run like any other citizen. I welcome him into the race,” Lowery told The Daily News. “While he has mentioned me personally, I think everyone knows I am clearly not the frontrunner in the race. Mayor Wharton is. And I’m sure Mayor Wharton will also welcome Mayor Herenton to the race.”

However, the intensity of Herenton’s comments about Lowery in the letter may have the effect of making Lowery a rallying point for Herenton critics still searching for a candidate in the special election.

Wharton’s campaign posted a tweet in the wake of the Herenton bombshell that began “Tired of the drama?” His campaign has called a rally for Friday evening at Lamar Avenue and Airways Boulevard.

Mayoral contender and attorney Charles Carpenter was surprised by the move. He has been a political ally of Herenton’s, having worked in all five of Herenton’s mayoral bids.

Carpenter told The Daily News his campaign “is moving forward to the end of this special election process.”

“We are moving forward very forcefully,” he said. “There are candidates that are pulling petitions everyday and we don’t focus on who is pulling petitions in this race. We are looking forward to expressing our vision for the future of Memphis to the citizens to forge and create a new beginning.”

 

Herenton's statement in its entirety: 

 

Citizens of Memphis:

 

My primary political goal is to represent the ninth congressional district in the U.S. House of Representatives.  I have every intention of being a congressional candidate during the August 2010 election.

 

However, during the interim, recent events have compelled me to step forth to provide leadership and express my sincere feelings on how our city can continue to move forward, despite our current dilemma.

 

My recent retirement from the office of Mayor has created this situation and I feel obligated to seek alternatives to Myron Lowery and an “anyone can win” mayoral race.

 

The city I love deserves better.

 

Therefore, I am also preparing a referendum resolution that would allow the citizens of Memphis to rescind the current charter amendment that elevated Myron Lowery to the office of Mayor Pro Tem.  This resolution would prescribe limitations on the powers of a non-elected mayor.

 

It is clear to many citizens that my retirement from office created opportunities for Mayor Pro Tem Lowery and a puzzling list of mayoral candidates to turn our city backward.  I am disappointed in Myron’s reckless style of leadership.  He must be stopped.

 

We cannot allow Mayor Pro Tem Lowery to be elected mayor during the upcoming special election. Unfortunately, it is difficult to predict a clear winner with a complicated array of mayoral candidates in the race.

 

Therefore, I have pulled a petition to run in the upcoming mayoral special election.

 

More details coming soon at www.memphisdailynews.com.

...

54. Politicians Out in Full Force -

With back-to-school supplies to hand out and a new crop of brightly colored campaign signs, the October special election race for Memphis mayor and several other races on the 2010 ballot came alive this past weekend.

55. Political Antics Will Get Comeuppance During Election -

Why did Memphians go to the trouble of having the City Charter revised and updated given the quagmire that Mayor Pro Tem Myron Lowery’s 75-day tenure is becoming?

In creating the new interim mayor position, the Charter Commission drafted and Memphis voters approved changes that did not adequately prepare for the questions that have been raised.

56. Halbert Denies Call For Lowery Ethics Investigation -

City attorney Elbert Jefferson has refused to turn over any paperwork to Mayor Pro Tempore Myron Lowery on what he claims is an “ethics investigation” he is conducting of Lowery.

57. UPDATE: Jefferson Denies Access To Info On Probe To Lowery -

City Attorney Elbert Jefferson has refused to turn over any paperwork to Mayor Pro Tempore Myron Lowery on what he claims is an “ethics investigation” he is conducting of Lowery.

Jefferson made the claim Wednesday during testimony in the city’s Chancery Court lawsuit against Lowery. Jefferson filed the suit in behalf of the city after Lowery attempted to fire Jefferson as his first official act on his first day as mayor. Jefferson said the investigation was requested by City Council member Wanda Halbert who, like Lowery, is a candidate in the Oct. 15 special election for Memphis mayor.

58. One Week Later: Historic Mayoral Era Turns to New Beginnings -

Just more than a week ago, Methodist minister Frank McRae opened a gathering at City Hall that was Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton’s farewell.

McRae talked about what he termed the “passing parade of politicians.”

59. City Attorney Standoff Changes Little With Court Ruling -

Chancellor Walter Evans has ruled Memphis Mayor Myron Lowery did nothing wrong in his move to fire City Attorney Elbert Jefferson.

But at the end of a hearing that took up most of Wednesday afternoon, Evans also ruled that Lowery needs a majority vote from the City Council to replace Jefferson with former U.S. Attorney Veronica Coleman-Davis in the city post.

60. UPDATE: Evans Rules Lowery Needs Majority Council Vote To Oust Jefferson -

Chancellor Walter Evans has ruled Memphis Mayor Myron Lowery did nothing wrong in his move to fire City Attorney Elbert Jefferson.

But at the end of a hearing that took up most of Wednesday afternoon, Evans also ruled that Lowery needs a majority vote from the City Council to replace Jefferson with former U.S. Attorney Veronica Coleman-Davis in the city post.

61. City Attorney Dispute Moves Into Chancery Court Today -

A turbulent turn of office at City Hall moves into a courtroom two blocks away this afternoon.

Memphis Mayor Myron Lowery delayed a City Council vote Tuesday on Veronica Coleman Davis as his nominee to be city attorney.

62. UPDATE: Council Vote On City Attorney Delayed -

Memphis Mayor Myron Lowery today delayed a City Council vote on Veronica Coleman Davis as his nominee to be city attorney.

Lowery told council members he wanted the delay to let a Chancery Court hearing tomorrow resolve any legal issues.

63. Halbert Declares Intention To Run for Mayor -

Calling herself the change agent Memphis government is lacking, Memphis City Council member Wanda Halbert added her name Monday to the field of candidates running in the October special election to replace Willie Herenton.

64. New Mayor Lowery Braces for First Council Battle -

Memphis Mayor Pro Tempore Myron Lowery goes to the City Council today with a new nominee for city attorney, former U.S. Attorney Veronica Coleman Davis, and lots of questions from some of his former council colleagues about his dismissal Friday of the old city attorney.

65. UPDATE: Halbert Is In -

Memphis City Council member Wanda Halbert announced this afternoon that she will be a candidate in the coming special election for Memphis mayor in October.

Halbert is serving her first term on the council after representing the same area on the Memphis school board. She has chaired the city council’s budget committee during her two years on the council. She also emerged as a vocal defender of the city charter’s requirement that all city employees live in the city of Memphis.

66. UPDATE: Lowery Appoints Coleman-Davis Deputy City Attorney -  

Memphis Mayor Myron Lowery has appointed his choice to be city attorney to be deputy city attorney until the City Council can act on her nomination.

The naming of Veronica Coleman-Davis to the number two spot is the latest twist in a controvery that began minutes after Lowery took the oath of office Friday and fired City Attorney Elbert Jefferson.

Jefferson then filed suit in Chancery Court against Lowery contesting Lowery's decision to fire him. Chancellor Walter Evans issued a preliminary injunction preventing Jefferson's dismissal at least until a hearing before Evans Wednesday afternoon.

On the Drake & Zeke Show on radio station 98.1 The Max, Lowery said until the council acts, Coleman-Davis, a former U.S. Attorney, will be deputy director. Her appointment to that position is immediate and does not require council approval.

Meanwhile, Jefferson's attorney, Ricky E. Wilkins, told The Daily News her confirmation Tuesday as City Attorney would have to come after a council vote to back Jefferson's firing.

"We will ask the court to continue to keep that injunction in place throughout the tenure of Myron Lowery as mayor pro tempore," Wilkins said. "If Myron is able to get the necessary votes to terminate Mr. Jefferson and to get the votes to replace him with a substitute city attorney ... then that's what the process calls for and I think Mr. Jefferson understands that. But Myron Lowery cannot ignore and violate the city charter to satisfy his own political means."

Jefferson was at City Hall over the weekend, escorted by City Council attorney Allan Wade, according to Lowery.

After taking the oath of office Friday afternoon from U.S. District Court Judge Hardy Mays, Lowery told reporters he had offered Jefferson a severance and a chance to resign the appointed post. Jefferson refused which apparently surprised Lowery since Jefferson had tendered his resignation to outgoing Mayor Willie Herenton earlier in the month and Herenton refused to accept it.

Lowery met with Jefferson in a City Hall stairwell after the swearing in ceremony. Lowery emerged without Jefferson and told reporters he had fired the attorney. Several sources said later that Jefferson was escorted from the building and his parking pass and other identification taken as he was walked to his car and out of City Hall.

Wilkins termed the forcible exit a "low blow" and a "fairly drastic action."

“The legal department has almost been a black hole for dollars,” Lowery said Friday, minutes after the stairwell meeting. “I think that we spend too much money on attorney fees. I think that our city attorney has allowed this to happen without adequate controls on this. And I’m looking for stronger controls in the city attorney’s office.”

“If the mayor pro tempore doesn’t have the power, who does?” Lowery said. “Of course I do.”

Power play

In addition to Coleman-Davis, Lowery will also take the nomination of former council member Jack Sammons as his Chief Administrative Officer to the council Tuesday.

Herenton CAO Keith McGee had retired effective July 4. But when Herenton moved back his resignation date to July 30, McGee extended his stay on a voluntary basis. McGee is working with Lowery on a transitional basis. Lowery said he had hoped Jefferson would work under the same arrangement.

“He wanted to keep the title and the salary that comes with it. So I had to make a decision,” Lowery said. “I wish he had accepted it. … He’s forced me to take this action.”

Lowery said he wants Coleman Davis to examine past city legal bills and expenses.

“I have heard that several individuals have been hired … in the legal department to fill vacancies who were scheduled to start work Monday. I just found this out,” Lowery told reporters. “I want to make sure that we don’t have cronies of our former legal division director who have been hired.”

Those appointments will be examined.

“I don’t want any friends of the division director receiving dollars or any backroom deals outside the scope of the City Council. You know what I’m talking about,” he told reporters. “That is not going to occur under my administration.”

‘Hard work and enthusiasm’

As Lowery moved into the seventh floor mayor’s office Friday at City Hall, council member Harold Collins moved into the council chairman’s office on the fifth floor as part of the transition in power following Herenton’s resignation. Collins indicated his displeasure with the firing of Jefferson and said he wants Lowery and Jefferson to be at Tuesday's council committee sessions to tell their sides of the story.

“It’s a new day at City Hall,” Lowery told a crowd in the Hall of Mayors the day after Herenton’s farewell address in the same hall. Lowery’s guests at the ceremony were Herenton, former Mayor Dick Hackett and J.O. Patterson Jr., the city’s first African-American mayor who served in the top post for 20 days after the resignation of Mayor Wyeth Chandler in 1982. Patterson was City Council chairman at the time. Like Lowery, Patterson also ran in the special election that followed and lost to Hackett, who lost to Herenton nine years later by 142 votes.

“With new life, new individuals, comes hope and promise,” Lowery said. “As mayor, I will promote a moral philosophy of customer service – customer-driven government. … I’m here also to say that I’m going to promote ethical leadership in government.”

One priority will be a new crime fighting strategy, although Lowery was quick to say he likes the direction the police department and those efforts have taken under current Police Director Larry Godwin. The other immediate priority is a more aggressive city cleanup campaign.

Lowery didn’t refer to Herenton directly in any of his comments, but the contrasts were apparent.

“We will be energetic in city government – more productive There’s a phrase, ‘We need to be workhorses, not showhorses.’” Lowery said. “You will not get a lot of catchy phrases from me. But you will get a lot of hard work and enthusiasm.”

The remark came the day after Herenton’s farewell address and press conference in which Herenton repeatedly invoked what looks to be the campaign slogan “Keep It Real” in his bid for the Democratic congressional nomination in 2010.

“As everyone knows, we’ve lost many people during the past several years. I’m going to say come home to Memphis,” Lowery said.

The remark is in contrast to one of Herenton’s most cited quotes from his 18-year tenure. When asked about citizens moving out of Memphis for the suburbs, Herenton responded by saying he had no problem with that and adding “goodbye.”

...

67. UPDATE: Lowery Promises 'New Day' for Memphis -

Memphis Mayor Myron Lowery fired City Attorney Elbert Jefferson on his first day in office, apparently during a meeting in a City Hall stairwell.

After taking the oath of office Friday afternoon from U.S. District Court Judge Hardy Mays, Lowery told reporters he had offered Jefferson a severance and a chance to resign the appointed post. Jefferson refused and Lowery met with him in a City Hall stairwell after the swearing in ceremony. Lowery emerged without Jefferson and told reporters he had fired the attorney.

68. It’s Herenton’s Last Day at City Hall -

The boxes were packed several weeks ago and most have been moved out of the seventh floor office.

For a year and a half, Willie Herenton has been visibly restless in his role as Memphis mayor. But the turmoil and deliberation about whether to continue probably goes back to his decision to run for an unprecedented fifth term in 2007.

69. Lee Fees Caught in Legal Loop -

With the predictability of a boomerang, Joseph Lee’s legal fee situation never seems to go away and keeps coming back to where it started.

At the Memphis City Council meeting Aug. 18, the body is scheduled to approve Memphis Light, Gas and Water Division’s payment of more than $426,000 to the city of Memphis. That amount from the city-owned utility company is to reimburse the city what it recently paid to settle a lawsuit the former MLGW president and CEO filed last year.

70. Setting of Mayoral Election Date Highlights Busy Week -

Shelby County Election Commission Chairman Bill Giannini knew something was happening Wednesday when his cell phone began coming to life. It was just as the commission was about to hold a special meeting to determine when to hold a special election for Memphis mayor.

71. Election Commission Tentatively Sets Oct. 27 Date For Mayor's Race -

Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton has again raised the possibility that he might not leave office on July 30. That possibility comes the same week that Herenton wondered aloud why reporters doubted that he would leave next week.

72. UPDATE: Herenton Again Raises Doubts About Departure -  

Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton has again raised the possibility that he might not leave office on July 30. That possibility comes the same week that Herenton wondered aloud why reporters doubted that he would leave next week.

A Herenton letter, dated today, to City Attorney Elbert Jefferson was released as the Shelby County Election Commission met to consider setting a date for a special election to fill a vacancy in the mayor’s office.

In the letter, Herenton writes that the City Council’s decision to declare a vacancy in the mayor’s office was “premature.”

“I am concerned that the action of the city will establish irreversible precedent on matters as to when an office can be deemed vacated and by whom,” Herenton wrote. “As Mayor and as an employee of the city of Memphis, I have the unfettered right to rescind my retirement. … Ultimately, I have not waived my right to rescind my retirement.”

Herenton also said Council chairman Myron Lowery may have had a conflict of interest in voting on the declaration of a vacancy since the council chairman becomes mayor pro tempore for three months in the event of a vacancy in the mayor’s office.

The bombshell letter prompted lots of debate among all five Election Commissioners about whether they should set an election date and filing deadline.

Ultimately, the commission voted unanimously to tentatively set an election date of Oct. 27. Candidates in the race would have until noon Sept. 17 to file their qualifying petitions and until noon Sept. 24 to withdraw from the race if they wish.

The commission would formally call the special election and begin issuing and taking petitions if Herenton does leave office on July 30.

An earlier move by Election Commissioner Shep Wilbun to defer any decision or action by the body until July 31 was voted down in a party line 2-3 vote. Wilbun and fellow Democratic Election Commissioner Myra Stiles voted for the delay. Republicans Robert Meyers, Brian Stephens and Bill Giannini voted no.

All five commissioners expressed a desire to remain out of any possible litigation that might result.

Read more background on the continuing political controversy in Friday’s edition of The Daily News.

...

73. Election Commission to Consider Mayoral Deadline -

The Shelby County Election Commission today is setting the stage for the next step in the coming special election for Memphis mayor.

The commission will meet at 4:30 p.m. to consider setting a deadline for candidates to file and a date for the election itself sometime in late October. In setting the dates, the commission would abide by terms of the Memphis Charter. The charter calls for a special election three months after a vacancy in the mayor’s office if there is no regularly scheduled election within six months of the date the office becomes vacant.

74. City Poised to Pay Lee’s Legal Expenses -

Joseph Lee appears set to get the six-figure sum he’s long awaited to cover his legal expenses incurred during a 2007 federal corruption investigation.

The city of Memphis within the past few days sent him an agreement styled as an “offer of judgment” for $426,422.33.

75. The Politics of Rape: What went wrong at MSARC -

There’s no such thing as a textbook rape victim. There are, however, some very thick and detailed textbooks on how medical and legal authorities should come to a victim’s aid.

Those two realities collided violently in March inside an examination room at the Memphis Sexual Assault Resource Center.

76. Budget Debate on Through Friday -

They’ve been staying until around 11 each night at City Hall in recent weeks. City Council members are moving into the final phase of their budget deliberations.

The council’s budget committee is open to all 13 commissioners, and most have been showing up for the evening sessions chaired by committee chairwoman Wanda Halbert.

77. Beasley Allen Leader for Lending Suit -

When the bottom fell out of several Regions Morgan Keegan mutual funds in 2007, billions of dollars in value belonging to shocked investors quickly evaporated.

Law firms throughout the country began signing up investors to represent. One of those firms is Montgomery, Ala.-based Beasley, Allen, Crow, Methvin, Portis & Miles PC.

78. Disputes Continue Over MSARC Storm -

Memphis city attorney Elbert Jefferson called it “a perfect storm.”

That was how he described the controversy that surrounds the Memphis Sexual Assault Resource Center when he met last month with its employees.

79. City to Lee: MLGW Should Pay -

The city of Memphis’ answer to a lawsuit filed against it in December by the former head of Memphis Light, Gas and Water Division is to the point: His beef is not with us, but MLGW.

City attorney Elbert Jefferson filed a response Friday to former MLGW president and CEO Joseph Lee’s Shelby County Chancery Court suit against the city.

80. In Lee Suit, Council’s Defense Still An Issue -

The question of who is going to represent Memphis City Council members in a multimillion-dollar lawsuit by a former city official still does not appear to have been answered in a way that satisfies everyone involved.

81. Spence Defends Herenton in Federal Probe -

The attorney who represented former Memphis Light, Gas and Water Division president and CEO Joseph Lee in a federal corruption investigation now is representing Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton in a separate federal probe.

82. Herenton’s Words Tempered By Investigation -

It’s a change few in local politics have failed to miss in recent weeks.

Mayor Willie Herenton still talks about consolidation, his successful 1990s court fight against the toy town law and the city’s financial health.

83. ’08 Foreclosures Set Stage for Rough ’09 -

The most revealing metric for gauging the extent of the foreclosure problem in Shelby County over the course of 2008 isn’t a number at all – though the numbers point to what arguably is a disturbing trend.

84. Mayor Strikes Back About Private Business Dealings -

Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton has hired an attorney, and on the attorney’s advice, is not commenting about corruption allegations reportedly being investigated by a federal grand jury.

85. Mayor Strikes Back About Private Business Dealings -

Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton has hired an attorney, and on the attorney’s advice, is not commenting about corruption allegations reportedly being investigated by a federal grand jury.

Before a Tuesday speech to the Memphis Rotary Club at the University Club of Memphis, Mayor Willie Herenton said in a written statement he handed to The Daily News that recent news stories about his personal business dealings “have caused my name and character to be attacked, and the true facts should be made available to the public.”

86. Council Frets Over Next Move in Lee Case -

In an attorney-client meeting this week, Memphis City Council chairman Myron Lowery laid out some options his fellow council members could pursue in defending themselves against a lawsuit filed last month by a former city official.

87. Details Coming Soon for Lender Lawsuit -

Right on schedule, elected officials on both sides of local government were briefed this month on the plan to file a lawsuit against national mortgage lending companies that allegedly targeted minority borrowers for high-cost loans.

88. Commission Committee Authorizes Foreclosure Suit -

Shelby County government has been authorized to sue national lending companies found to have contributed to the foreclosure problem in Memphis and the county by extending high-cost loans to disadvantaged and minority borrowers.

89. Lipscomb Works at Heart Of Numerous Community Projects -

With all the public development projects and city planning efforts he’s either involved in or leading, Robert Lipscomb’s professional life can resemble the act of the plate-spinning performers on “The Ed Sullivan Show.”

90. City Council Ponders What to Do Next in Lee Case -

The same day this week that each member of the Memphis City Council was served notice they are being sued by former Memphis Light, Gas and Water Division president and CEO Joseph Lee, council members were not yet certain how they would respond.

91. City Tweaks Capitol Hill Presence -

A political changing of the guard will bring new courtiers to Nashville’s Legislative Plaza.

Some of them likely will come from the city of Memphis, which is looking into the possibility of building a new lobbying team to represent the city’s interests in the state capitol. A request for qualifications (RFQ) issued by the city Nov. 19 to individual lobbyists and lobbying firms for their services came as a result of the Nov. 4 state election results, which gave Republicans control of both houses of the Tennessee General Assembly.

92. Plan to Stem Foreclosure Process Comes Into Focus -

Little by little, a comprehensive plan for solving the foreclosure problem in the Memphis area is coming together. A makeshift task force has been assembled, and its members continue to receive their individual marching orders.

93. Local NBA Chapter Welcomes New Officers, Board -

The Ben F. Jones chapter of the National Bar Association on Saturday will present its new officers and board members at its annual Barristers’ Ball, a combined ceremony and fundraiser, at the Memphis Botanic Garden.

94. Ex-Mayor Hackett Helps Quash Charter Amendment -

Scratch the proposed amendment to the Memphis charter that would require City Council approval of some contracts signed by the mayor.

The Memphis Charter Commission last week took back its earlier decision to include such a proposal on the Nov. 4 ballot. The earlier move was rescinded after current Mayor Willie Herenton and former Mayor Dick Hackett told the group that requiring council approval of contracts over a certain dollar amount would needlessly complicate city government and make it more inefficient.

95. City Renews Contract With Back-Tax Collection Firm -

The city of Memphis has renewed its contract with a Texas law firm that collects delinquent taxes for the city. And members of the Memphis City Council, who apparently were not informed that the contract would be renewed last month or even that negotiations were under way, are not happy.

96. Total Cuts to City Schools Funding Possible -

For years, Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton has talked of obliterating the structure of the school system he headed for 12 years. But in every case those plans have proved to be too complex and dependent on too many political entities coming together in an unlikely alliance.

97. Three Year Old AG Legal Opinion Raises Possibility of School Consolidation -

Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton isn’t trying to talk the Memphis City Council out of cutting city funding to the city school system anymore.

Instead, Herenton outlined Thursday for the council a legal scenario under which a funding cut could lead to a single school system in Shelby County with single source local funding.

98. City Funding Cut To City Schools Could Lead To One School System -

Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton isn’t trying to talk the Memphis City Council out of cutting city funding to the city school system anymore.

Instead, Herenton outlined Thursday for the council a legal scenario under which a funding cut could lead to a single school system in Shelby County with single source local funding.

99. Council Members, School Leaders In Intricate Dance Over Funding -

Sparks didn’t fly as the Memphis City Council and Memphis City Schools leaders met last week. And there was very little talk about the council’s coming consideration of cutting all $93 million in city funding to the school system.

100. City Hearing to Gauge Satisfaction Among Contractors, Vendors -

Restaurants have comment cards. Newspapers have letters to the editor.

And the city of Memphis is in the midst of a similar effort directed at businesspeople, companies, contractors and other groups who do business with it.