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VOL. 131 | NO. 129 | Wednesday, June 29, 2016


Bill Dries

Last Word: Democrats Settle, Scotty Moore and the Top Cop Search

By Bill Dries

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Tennessee Democratic Party Chairman Mary Mancini ordered the Shelby County Democratic Party to settle its differences with former local party chairman Bryan Carson Tuesday and accept his offer to repay the party $6,000 at $100 a month..

Earlier this month, the local party’s executive committee voted to file a criminal complaint with the Shelby County District Attorney General’s office accusing Carson of embezzling the party funds.

Mancini, in essence, said Democrats have better things to do in this Presidential election year in which presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton has vowed to make Tennessee a blue state.

The money dispute prompted Carson to resign in February 2015 while maintaining that he did nothing wrong and certainly not to the tune of the $26,000 some party leaders claimed.

The local party’s disarray continued earlier this year when Carson’s successor as chair, Randa Spears resigned and party vice chair Deidre Malone joined her.

Malone said continued infighting after Democratic slates in two county elections in 2010 and 2014 fared poorly against Republican candidates was a factor in her departure.

Another vice chairman of the local Democratic Party, Michael Pope, was elected the new chairman at the same meeting earlier this month where the executive committee voted to file the complaint against Carson.

Pope defeated longtime executive committee member Del Gill for the chairmanship. Gill sponsored the resolution calling for the complaint.

It was approved with the votes of many on the committee who wouldn’t have voted for Gill if he had been the only candidate for chairman.

Gill indicated at the June 2 meeting that he intended to file the complaint himself after the committee approved the action.

While Mancini’s letter to local party leaders was widely circulated around town Tuesday, Pope issued a statement Tuesday evening saying the party can’t discuss the terms of what is a private agreement.

There is a faction in the party that is questioning whether the best course of action might not be to dissolve the local party’s charter with the state party and start over.

That sentiment is not necessarily a result of the controversy over Carson. It’s a larger issue about the local party’s deep divide over how to deal with party loyalty and dis-loyalty in a county where Democrats are the majority – even by Republican estimates – but in which the local Democratic ticket repeatedly gets drubbed in countywide elections.

Gill has moved to censure Democrats for supporting Republican candidates in past elections.

Democrats supporting Republicans argue that the retread Democratic candidates from past elections can win local low-turnout Democratic primaries and combined with other dubious nominees – namely Joe Brown, the party’s nominee for District Attorney General two years ago – they take down the few Democrats on the slate that have crossover appeal.

The party last pushed the reset button in 1978.

In other political news, the Memphis Bar Association releases the results of its Judicial Qualification Poll on the candidates running in the judicial races on the Aug. 4 ballot.

Scotty Moore has died. Moore and bass player Bill Black were the two Sun Studio session players who worked with Elvis Presley on Presley’s first commercial recordings at Sun in the mid-1950s. The influence of his guitar work on those Sun recordings and into the first RCA recordings – that for my money hold up better than the movie soundtracks that followed – and on rock and roll in general is undeniable. Moore was more than a picker. He was also the organizing force that kept Elvis Presley on the road pre-Colonel Tom Parker. He was a recording engineer who for a time had his own independent record label – Fernwood – whose singles are now collectors’ items.

Moore was the last of the four people at Sun that day in July when he, Black, Presley and Sam Phillips captured the cultural equivalent of lightning in a bottle.

Taken altogether, the Sun singles have an influence that goes far beyond the appeal of something you wouldn’t have heard before in quite that combination in the mid-1950s.

While some heard the voice and identified with it as something they wanted to emulate and make their own, others heard the guitar and had the same kind of identification with that sound.

Very little time elapsed between the reports that UT basketball coach Pat Summitt wasn’t doing well and the word yesterday that she had died.

Teresa Walker of Associated Press reminds us that Summitt was offered the coach’s job for the UT men’s program twice and turned it down twice.

The Commercial Appeal is taking the city to court – Chancery Court – over the city’s job search for a Memphis Police Director.

The city is using the International Association of Chiefs of Police to take the applications, which were due June 17, and narrow down the list to a set of finalists for the mayor’s consideration.

Ask the mayor’s office who applied, as we did last week, and the answer is this: “We are unable to email you the list of candidates because we do not have access to the list.”

That is the exact response we got from Arlenia Cole of the mayor’s office, which strains credibility.

Search firms have become the default process by government groups looking to fill important public positions to shield the names of those people. The reasoning is often that if the places these applicants now work at find out they are applying for another job, that might jeopardize the job they have. If someone can't handle that kind of pressure, the may not be able to handle the pressure of being the city's top cop.

An honest question with your answers welcome – Tell me when that has happened? – Someone applied for a job like police director and the place they worked found out and fired them. Tell me about it in an email to bdries@memphisdailynews.com. Really.

The CA’s challenge of City Hall comes at a very interesting time. In May, Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery issued a legal opinion on job searches by school systems that often go to the Tennessee School Board Association.

Slatery said any records that TSBA or similar groups have from such a search are public records and their meetings may even be open under the state’s Open Meetings Act.

Slatery went to the state’s Public Records Act which says “records, employment, applications, credentials and similar documents obtained by any person in conjunction with an employment search for a director of schools or any chief public administrative officer shall at all times, during business hours, be open for personal inspection by any citizens of Tennessee.”

The phrase that will likely come into play in Chancery Court is “any chief public administrative officer.” And it’s hard to imagine that the description wouldn’t apply to a police director’s job.

Slatery’s legal opinion was in response to an inquiry on a different matter from State Senator Mike Bell of Nashville.

The city’s chief legal officer/city attorney responded late Tuesday to this and it is a pretty interesting response.

So, if the administration isn’t entitled to a list of everyone who applied, how does the administration intend to respond to the inevitable request from the City Council or some individual council member to see a list of everyone who applied?

Oh no, YoLo.

This is “Budget Day #3” by my count in terms of the day the county is likely to end its budget season. Here’s a scene setter for what’s at stake and what likely won’t be resolved today even if the sun does set on the budget season.

First Horizon in New York for a Morgan Stanley roadshow.

The Downtown Memphis Commission has a smaller grant program that spreads the wealth so to speak on the projects that the DMC used to undertake itself.

Don’t ask Kevin Dean what he’s reading and other adventures beyond his transformation of Literacy Mid-South.

PROPERTY SALES 36 154 6,546
MORTGAGES 34 94 4,129
BUILDING PERMITS 201 554 15,915
BANKRUPTCIES 43 126 3,396