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VOL. 128 | NO. 244 | Monday, December 16, 2013

Pay Raises, Germantown Schools Deal Top Commission Agenda

By Bill Dries

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Shelby County Commissioners won’t be voting on anything having to do with the proposed sale of AutoZone Park when they meet Monday, Dec. 16.

The resolution involving their piece of the original terms of financing for the ballpark in 1998 was pulled from the agenda of the last meeting of 2013 at the request of Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr. last week.

But the commission will consider a new proposal for a pay raise for Shelby County Schools board members. And there is a proposal for county government to join a convention center study committee that comes years after the county ended all involvement and commitments to the once jointly owned and funded Memphis Cook Convention Center.

The commission meets at 1:30 p.m. at the Vasco Smith County Administration Building, 160 N. Main St.

Follow the meeting at @tdnpols, www.twitter.com/tdnpols.


Commissioner Mike Ritz is proposing that the pay of Shelby County Schools board members go from the current $4,200 a year to $25,000, with an extra $1,000 a year for the chairman.

Approving the pay hike will take a two-thirds vote, or nine of the 13 commissioners. The resolution got four of seven votes in committee sessions last week.

Meanwhile, the commission votes on third and final reading for a trio of ordinances that would set the pay for the commission, the mayor and Shelby County sheriff for their next terms of office, as well as the offices of trustee, register, county clerk and assessor, which are also on the 2014 ballot.

The pay for trustee, register, clerk and assessor could change on a yearly basis if rank-and-file county employees get a cost of living raise.

In the first two readings, commissioners approved keeping their annual pay the same at $29,100, but voted down a move to raise the pay of the other elected officials.


Monday’s meeting will also be the last for Wyatt Bunker, whose resignation from the commission takes effect Jan. 3, following his election earlier this year as the mayor of Lakeland.

And Bunker is ending his service on the commission with a “no confidence” resolution aimed at Shelby County Elections Administrator Richard Holden, for election problems in 2012 that prompted an investigation by state officials, Holden’s suspension and probationary period after that, and a recent critical audit.

Bunker specifically cites state elections officials’ criticism of the local Election Commission for not having the correct Tennessee Legislature district races on the ballots of some citizens during the 2012 elections. And he mentions the Shelby County Chancery Court decision in August ordering a new Shelby County Schools board election because of the districting problems. The court ruling is being appealed.

Bunker’s resolution says Holden has “shown a consistent pattern of being slow to acknowledge problems or accept responsibility for them, of minimizing problems, and of improperly blaming others for election problems.”

The resolution also urges the Election Commission “to replace its administrator of elections with someone who is able to fulfill the responsibilities of the office and inspire public confidence in the election process.”

The commission also votes Monday on the last of the suburban schools settlements – the one with Germantown leaders.

If approved, the commission will have voted on six separate agreements with leaders of Shelby County’s six suburban communities to end its third-party claim in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee that contests the formation of the municipal schools districts. The commission claimed in court that the school districts would violate the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution by racially “resegregating” public education in Shelby County.

Suburban leaders vehemently denied that would be the result.

But taking the claim to a decision by U.S. District Judge Samuel “Hardy” Mays would likely have taken months, if not years, of litigation in what Mays warned earlier in the legal proceedings would be a complex undertaking.

The commission takes up a joint resolution already approved by the Memphis City Council to create a city-county study committee on a possible expansion of the Memphis Cook Convention Center.

The resolution on the county side has encountered some hostility because the commission just three years ago approved the county’s sale of its interest in the center to the city of Memphis.

The move to give the city full control over the convention center came at a time that the city bought out the county’s share of The Pyramid as well as the Mid-South Fairgrounds.

City Housing and Community Development Director Robert Lipscomb advocated the transactions to make it easier for the city to negotiate for future uses of the land and the facilities.

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