VOL. 128 | NO. 187 | Wednesday, September 25, 2013
County Commission Sees Calmer Session
By Bill Dries
Ruffled feelings on the Shelby County Commission earlier this month were smoothed for the most part Monday, Sept. 23, as James Harvey chaired the second meeting of his yearlong term as commission chairman.
The best indicator that differences over Harvey’s rise as chairman with crossover votes from Republican members of the commission was the length of Monday’s session. It came in at slightly less than an hour, with a short agenda.
But at the end of the meeting, there was a reminder of the potential for further flare-ups, when Valerie Griffith, claiming to be a leader of the local Democratic Party, stirred some of the embers from the commission’s meeting two weeks ago.
She specifically spoke to Harvey’s censure by the local party’s executive committee for voting with Republicans on the commission including in his election as chairman.
Griffith also attacked Commissioner Heidi Shafer’s claim that the attempt to remove her earlier this month as Harvey’s choice to head the budget committee was “sexism.”
“We have always, always represented the interests of women,” Griffith said. “I am giving Ms. Shafer until Friday to retract those statements or we will file a libel suit.”
“I know what I see when I see it,” Shafer replied. “You don’t get to define what I see. … I have a right absolutely to my opinion and it is shared by many people.”
Harvey didn’t respond and asked Shafer if she was sure she wanted to. Shafer did and after Griffith ended the exchange by remarking, “See you in court,” the commission meeting was adjourned.
In other action, the commission approved on the first of three readings Harvey’s ordinance that would regulate used tire vendors and haulers. The ordinance would apply only to the unincorporated part of Shelby County and there are no such vendors in those areas.
“I don’t know that we could justify fees coming from businesses that don’t exist,” said Commissioner Mike Ritz.
Assistant County Attorney Carter Gray, who drafted the ordinance at Harvey’s request, said he is awaiting a legal opinion on whether the ordinance could apply to tires being transported through the unincorporated areas.
That legal opinion is expected by second reading at the first commission meeting in October.
The commission also sent an $18.2 million contract with Correct Care Solutions LLC for medical services at the Shelby County Jail and the Shelby County Corrections Division back to committee sessions on Oct. 2 for more discussion.
Several commissioners wanted to discuss accountability measures and other details of the contract.
“I have some oversight concerns regarding this huge amount of money,” said Commissioner Henri Brooks. “I do believe there’s a whole lot of due diligence that needs to be done.”
Ritz was concerned that the contract was linked to a contract for similar services at Memphis-Shelby County Juvenile Court.
“It’s my opinion that the advertising of this contract and the way it was handled cost us bidders,” he said.