VOL. 133 | NO. 78 | Wednesday, April 18, 2018
Luttrell Vetoes One Resolution, Refuses to Sign Another
By Bill Dries
Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell has vetoed a resolution for attorney and former County Commissioner Julian Bolton to continue in his role as legislative policy adviser to the commission.
Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell has vetoed one County Commission resolution from earlier this month and refused to sign another one. (Daily News/Bill Dries)
And Luttrell allowed another resolution to take effect without his signature that imposes a moratorium on contracts and budget amendments through the end of August and the current term of office of the mayor and commissioners.
In the letters dated Friday to commission chairwoman Heidi Shafer and released Monday, April 16, Luttrell said the resolution extending Bolton’s contract to work with the commission has “technical defects and doesn’t follow county purchasing policies.”
The veto continues a difference of opinion between Luttrell and most of the commission, who have been to court over the commission’s attempt to hire its own legal counsel, similar to the Memphis City Council’s use of its own attorney independent of the city attorney.
Luttrell contends the county charter works differently.
The moratorium on contract and budget amendments was approved by the commission in the latest attempt by the body to make its ordinance on setting goals for county contracts to minority-owned and locally-owned businesses more specific.
Commissioner Van Turner called for the moratorium after a five-year contract for inmate medical services at the county corrections center at $20 million annually included no requirements for percentage goals.
It is the largest contract of the commission’s four-year term of office.
Luttrell wrote that he had “numerous” reasons for not signing the resolution, starting with its adoption as an add-on item to the agenda at the April 2 meeting with no notice to the administration.
“I have a responsibility for the efficient operation of county government and contracting for goods and services is an essential element of operations,” he wrote. “The moratorium extending for two months into the next fiscal year is certain to cause disruption of essential goods and services.”
He also called the moratorium “puzzling” since the commission has to approve any budget amendments already.
The resolution allows the commission to make exceptions to the moratorium with a majority vote and a process for the administration to seek such an exception.
“A resolution on amendments could very likely cause the county to miss opportunities for grant funds that historically become available to us near the end of the fiscal year,” Luttrell wrote.
He also said the commission should make changes to the minority and locally-owned businesses program without the moratorium.
The commission took no action on the veto at its second meeting of the month on Monday.
The commission approved on the first of three readings an ordinance added-on by commissioner Walter Bailey that would add a charter amendment allowing pay raises for county elected officials to the August county general election ballot for voters to decide.
The charter amendment would tie pay raises for those elected positions in the county charter to pay raises for state employees. That would mean pay raises that could happen during a term of office instead of for the next term of office.
The commission also approved a resolution “encouraging and supporting” ways to find a facility that can house girls locally who are awaiting trial after being transferred for trial as adults by Memphis-Shelby County Juvenile Court.
Commissioner Mark Billingsley offered the resolution citing the case of 16-year old Teriyona Winton, who has been put in solitary confinement at adult prisons as she awaits trial in Memphis as an adult for first degree murder. She spent several months in solitary at a Nashville women’s prison and is now at the empty wing of a women’s therapeutic residential center an hour away from Memphis.
The Shelby County Sheriff’s Office has a separate “sight and sound separated” housing unit at its Jail East facility for juvenile males transferred for trial as adults as they await trial. But it has no similar space for juvenile females.
County chief administrative officer Harvey Kennedy said the county corrections center doesn’t have space since about 50 defendants awaiting trial were transferred to the corrections center from the Shelby County Jail.
“I think the problem is there are almost no juvenile females that are being transferred for trial as adults,” Kennedy said.
“We’ve been silent enough on this issue,” Billingsley replied, saying the number of female juveniles shouldn’t matter. “We’ve got to come to a resolution. Let’s shine a light on this issue. If a light is not shined on it, I guarantee you nothing will happen.”
The commission delayed separate votes on a total of $2 million in capital funding it wants to funnel through EDGE – Economic Development Growth Engine – for two projects in Whitehaven.
One is a $1.5 million in funding for a renovation of Southbrook Mall and the other is $500,000 for an indoor swimming pool to be run by the YMCA in Whitehaven.
Commissioners delayed the Southbrook Mall funding until May 14 to take a tour of the retail property and explore questions about whether a private retail site should receive such funding. The pool funding move was referred back to committees on April 25 for more discussion. The pool would be built on land from Methodist South hospital with the city of Memphis and the Plough Foundation putting up money in addition to the county government funding.
Some commissioners had questions about when the county funding would come into play. It would be a last dollar arrangement after all of the other funding is secured.