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VOL. 130 | NO. 44 | Thursday, March 5, 2015

Wharton Still Mum on Extent of Shake-Up

By Bill Dries

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The move of Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority Board chairman and former Memphis City Council member Jack Sammons back to City Hall is not a done deal just yet.

A shake-up at the top of the Wharton administration could affect other positions in his inner circle, Wharton said last week in his first public comments on the election year moves.

(Daily News File Photo)

“I’m not going to be making any additional comment on that,” Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr. said Tuesday, March 3, in his first public comments on the shake-up in his administration’s No. 2 position. “We’re still talking and hopefully later in the week there are any number of things that will be ironed out to the mutual satisfaction of both sides.”

Wharton said with Sammons on board he then plans to “address the future roles of everybody at one time.”

When asked if others in his administration could be affected in the reorganization, Wharton told The Daily News, “It’s possible.”

Some larger changes could involve members of his inner circle leaving to work on his re-election campaign with city elections on the October ballot.

Other non-campaign related changes are a regular feature of life at City Hall, no matter who the mayor is.

There are several hurdles to Sammons serving as CAO and continuing to serve on the airport authority board, which he became chairman of in 2013. And the administration has contacted state legislators in Nashville about possible changing the state law that currently bars Sammons from holding the two positions simultaneously.

Beyond that, Wharton would take Sammons’ nomination as chief administrative officer to the council for confirmation. And several council members have expressed concern about Sammons holding both jobs given challenges at the airport as well as within City Hall.

Meanwhile, Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell expressed similar concerns this week that could cloud the prospects of quick passage of state legislation to make the move possible.

“We’re still talking, and hopefully later in the week there are any number of things that will be ironed out.”

–A C Wharton Jr.
City of Memphis Mayor

The city and county mayors both appoint members to the airport authority board. Luttrell appointed Sammons to the board in 2010.

But under existing state law, it doesn’t matter which mayor appoints him. The law reads that no one serving on the airport authority board “shall be an officer or employee of the creating municipality or a participating municipality.”

Sammons would replace George Little as CAO, a post Little has held since March 2010, five months after Wharton was elected mayor in a special election. Little’s predecessor was Sammons, who was CAO to interim mayor Myron Lowery for two and a half months in the gap between Mayor Willie Herenton’s resignation and Wharton’s election.

Little has said he would take the newly created position of chief operating officer in the change, with duties that would include those of Wharton’s chief of staff. Little would focus on specific initiatives including a realignment of public safety in the fire and police departments, and a further move by city solid waste sanitation services into outsourcing and the concept the administration calls “managed competition.”

PROPERTY SALES 57 280 1,209
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BUILDING PERMITS 158 699 2,751