VOL. 132 | NO. 187 | Wednesday, September 20, 2017
Boyd Drops Beale Contract, But Says It Wasn't A Conflict of Interest
By Bill Dries
Memphis City Council chairman Berlin Boyd ended his company’s fundraising contract with the Beale Street Merchants Association Tuesday, Sept. 19. But he again insisted the contract was not a conflict of interest in his duties as a council member voting on items involving the entertainment district.
And city council attorney Allan Wade reiterated his belief that there is no conflict of interest in a written legal opinion drawing the same conclusion he did in a verbal opinion to Boyd at the outset of the controversy.
Both actions came as the council took back an item it approved two weeks ago on the disposition of money collected since June from the $5 cover charge the council set for getting onto Beale Street Saturday night after 10 p.m. in the spring and summer.
The money goes to the city and not the merchants association. And the resolution directs the administration of Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland to disperse it directly to pay security expenses with the council having no line item control over that.
Despite Wade’s legal opinion and Boyd’s insistence there is no conflict of interest, Boyd said he intended to recuse himself two weeks ago from voting on the resolution. But he instead voted for it, saying he forgot to recuse himself.
The council removed the item Tuesday from the minutes of that meeting setting the stage for Boyd to then change his vote and recuse himself.
Before he could, council member Worth Morgan moved to delay the revote for two weeks, to the Oct. 3 council session. Morgan and other council members indicated they had questions about how the resolution works and not necessarily any potential conflict of interest Boyd may have. That’s when Boyd announced he was dropping the contract with the merchants and joined seven other council members in voting for the delay.
Council members also delayed for two weeks a vote on an advance of $10 million to start renovation design work on the Memphis Cook Convention Center, also seeking more specific information.
City Chief Operating Officer Doug McGowen said he would provide the council with a timeline as well as specific work to be done.
The council also approved Tuesday another $11.5 million advance to get work started on the Bicentennial Gateway project in the nine-block area between the Pyramid and the campus of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, which is next to the convention center area and is designed to work with the convention center improvements.
The council confirmed the nomination of retired FedEx Corp. executive Mike Rodriguez as the city’s new Chief Information Officer.
With much more reluctance the council confirmed, in a separate vote, two non-voting advisory members to the Memphis Light Gas and Water Division Board who live in Shelby County but outside Memphis.
The appointment of Kevin Young and Dwain Kicklighter is part of a compromise with Tennessee legislators that Wade described as a choice between appointing two non-voting members or having the Tennessee General Assembly likely pass a law next year that would change the board to put voting members from outside the city in a position of power on the utility board.
“They do not vote. This is irrelevant,” Wade said of the non-voting positions. “If you want in January there to be two new voting members don’t do this.”
Wade also invoked the specific specter of Shelby County Commissioner Terry Roland having a say in who gets on the utility board. Roland has been a long-time advocate of representation on the board by suburban residents.
The compromise allows MLGW access to bonds controlled by the state as well.
The ordinance that would call for the removal of Confederate monuments in city parks after Oct. 13 was approved on the second of three readings Tuesday. The ordinance is timed to take effect after the Oct. 13 meeting of the Tennessee Historical Commission to hear the city administration’s request for a waiver that would allow the city to remove the monuments.
And the council approved the AutoZone Liberty Bowl’s lease to use the city-owned Liberty Bowl stadium, completing city approval of the set of three contracts for football games at the stadium including the seven University of Memphis home games and the Southern Heritage Classic.
Also approved Tuesday was the authority for the city to purchase the open lot at Pontotoc and Hernando that will be the site of “I Am A Man” Plaza commemorating the 1968 strike by city sanitation workers. Along with that the council approved grants of $70,000 each to 14 more sanitation workers who were part of the historic strike toward the 50th anniversary observances in April of the strike and the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
In planning and development items, the council approved a CarMax used car lot at Cotton Plant Road and Nonconnah Parkway which required changing land use conditions for the piece of the Polo Grounds Planned Development that specifically barred such businesses. And the council approved the move of Golden India restaurant from Overton Square proper to what is now a house at 20 N. Cooper St., just north of Madison Ave. The house is to be demolished with a restaurant built with residential on the floor above.