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VOL. 124 | NO. 83 | Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Ware Implicated but Not Charged in Bribery at Clerk's Office

Eight indicted for taking money to process car tags and titles

By Bill Dries

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Memphis City Council member Barbara Swearengen Ware has been implicated but not charged in bribery allegations at the county clerk’s office.

Eight former or current employees there have been indicted on corruption charges by the Shelby County grand jury. They are specifically accused of taking bribes to do favors for those seeking to renew car tags or process car titles.

“Based on the information that we have, we have reason to believe that this was a practice that had been somewhat long-standing in the office,” District Attorney General Bill Gibbons told reporters at an afternoon press conference.

Those indicted are Janice Garrett, Millicent Rogers, Patricia Reid, Rita Jones, Anita Porter, Seprice Crews, Julia Marshall and Darlene McKee. All eight were arrested this (Wednesday) morning, some while at work, and they were being held at the Shelby County jail on $5,000 bond.

Crews, Marshall and McKee are accused of taking bribes from representatives of Unique Auto Sales and Fleet Equipment last year to process multiple transactions including car titles.

Garrett, Rogers and Reid are accused of taking bribes from Ware on three different occasions last year.

“I think the indictment spells out her role pretty well,” Gibbons said. “The investigation is ongoing,” he replied when asked if she could be indicted.

Garrett, a clerical specialist for eight years in the clerk’s office, was fired in January after an investigation of the office by the County Attorney’s Office. The findings of the report dealt with violations of county policy and not possible violations of the law. The findings of the report were referred to the Shelby County District Attorney General’s office. The report led to the resignation of Charles Nichols, who had been chief administrative officer in the clerk’s office under Clerk Debbie Stamson.

Nichols was not among those charged. When asked if Nichols is cooperating in the criminal probe, Gibbons said he could not comment because the investigation is continuing and others could be charged.

Memphis Police Director Larry Godwin said the criminal probe began late last year with a tip from someone in the clerk’s office to the police Organized Crime Unit. The OCU began an investigation that Godwin told reporters involved sending undercover officers into the office to observe.

RECORD TOTALS DAY WEEK YEAR
PROPERTY SALES 51 328 20,960
MORTGAGES 58 387 24,132
FORECLOSURE NOTICES 6 54 3,101
BUILDING PERMITS 170 842 43,435
BANKRUPTCIES 50 288 13,468
BUSINESS LICENSES 34 90 6,712
UTILITY CONNECTIONS 16 110 7,899
MARRIAGE LICENSES 32 91 4,734