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VOL. 130 | NO. 230 | Wednesday, November 25, 2015

County Government Standoff Moves To Negotiations

By Bill Dries

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It was all smiles at the Shelby County Commission Monday, Nov. 23, between county Mayor Mark Luttrell and commission chairman Terry Roland.

Shelby County Commission chairman Terry Roland says the commission has hired its own attorney despite a veto of the move by county mayor Mark Luttrell. The talks since the veto center on an annual contract that the commission would approve.

(Daily News/Andrew J. Breig)

Neither brought up the ongoing dispute between the mayor and the commission over the commission’s move to hire its own attorney, independent of the county attorney’s office.

But Roland later said talks are underway to resolve the standoff.

The commission approved a resolution in October to hire former county commissioner Julian Bolton as its attorney. Luttrell vetoed the measure Nov. 6, and the commission reacted with an veto override at a special Nov. 18 meeting. By the end of that day, Luttrell had notified Roland in writing that he would not carry out Bolton’s hiring.

“What he says and what the county attorney says are two different things,” Roland said after Monday’s county commission meeting. “Our order was to the county attorney’s office to do a contract. They are working with me now to work through this. I think we are going to come to some sort of a conclusion. I’m not beating my chest.”

Roland said county commissioner Walter Bailey, an attorney, has been talking with county attorney Ross Dyer about a deal to hire Bolton on an interim basis while working out a contract.

“Julian’s hired right now. Getting together with them on the contract is all we are doing,” Roland said. “We’re going to work on a resolution setting up a process for hiring an attorney from now on. Every year it will come up.”

The commission also approved up to $300 million in refunding bonds Monday that will reduce county government’s interest rate to 2.7 percent. The refunding restructures the county’s outstanding variable bond debt to fixed interest rate bonds.


The commission also sent back to committee a resolution that would bar the city-county Economic Development Growth Engine from taking the Community Redevelopment Agency into its organization without commission approval.

The proposal by commissioner Steve Basar is getting a closer look next month in committee after EDGE officials expressed concerns about the move to block folding the CRA into EDGE.

Memphis Mayor A C Wharton announced the merger proposal earlier this year. Wharton says the merger would allow for more economic development activity in Uptown and Highland Row, two redevelopment areas controlled by the agency.

City council members balked at the changes in a September committee discussion and delayed the move indefinitely.

Some commissioners were concerned EDGE could enact the merger through a memorandum of understanding before the commission votes on Basar’s resolution in December. The resolution was amended to send it back to committee and request that EDGE not take such action.

Commission chairman Terry Roland said he will move to abolish EDGE if the board goes through with the merger.

County commissioners also approved Monday a resolution to drop the requirement that zoning changes or subdivisions outside of Memphis but within five miles of the city limits must receive Memphis City Council approval.

The resolution repealing that is part of a private act approved by the Tennessee Legislature this year.

And commissioners warned Shelby County Schools’ new chief financial officer to avoid bringing last-minute budget resolutions to the body in the future as it approved $10.4 million in changes to the SCS budget across two resolutions.

The changes move funds from one part of the school system’s budget to another and include grants SCS has received since the fiscal year began July 1. The school system also would use $1 million more of its reserve fund for what were described as “emergency” capital projects.

CFO Lin Johnson vowed he would avoid such last-minute resolutions in the future.

PROPERTY SALES 81 201 16,108
MORTGAGES 40 104 10,026
BUILDING PERMITS 130 336 38,272
BANKRUPTCIES 28 56 7,528