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VOL. 133 | NO. 33 | Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Comptroller: City of Memphis Followed Most Rules in Sale of Parks

Daily News staff

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The Comptroller’s Office released its findings Wednesday, Feb. 14, after completing a review of the transactions.

 (Memphis News/Houston Cofield)

The state Comptroller’s Office has determined the city of Memphis’ Dec. 20, 2017, sale of Health Sciences Park and the easement to Memphis Park to Memphis Greenspace Inc. appropriately followed related laws with the exception of requiring Memphis Greenspace to submit an application so it could gauge the nonprofit’s financial stability.

The Comptroller’s Office released its findings Wednesday, Feb. 14, after completing a review of the transactions.

The sale of the parks followed the city’s unsuccessful attempt to receive a waiver from the Tennessee Historical Commission to remove a statue of Nathan Bedford Forrest from Health Sciences Park. After the parks were sold, statues of Nathan Bedford Forrest, Jefferson Davis, and James Harvey Mathes were removed by Memphis Greenspace.

Lt. Gov. Randy McNally, R-Oak Ridge, and Houser Speaker Beth Harwell, R-Nashville, requested the review to determine compliance with the Tennessee Open Meetings Act and other state and local laws.

The Comptroller’s Office of Open Records Counsel determined the Memphis City Council provided sufficient notice of its meetings and agendas and did not violate the Tennessee Open Meetings Act.

Comptroller auditors also concluded the city acted with the authority granted by the Memphis Code of Ordinances to sell the parks to a nonprofit at less than market value. The parks were each sold to Memphis Greenspace for $1,000.

But auditors found the city did not follow all of the guidelines in the code of ordinances by not requiring Memphis Greenspace “to submit an application to the City Real Estate Department before the properties were conveyed as required by the Memphis Code of Ordinances (Section 2-16-1(G)(2)). The purpose of this application is to gauge an entity’s financial strength and overall stability,” according to a press release.

Memphis maintained it was able to determine the nonprofit was financially capable of maintaining the parks by meeting directly with Memphis Greenspace, which is led by attorney Van Turner, who is also a Shelby County commissioner. The city also provided auditors with three other instances when it had sold property without requiring an application to the City Real Estate Department.

In its report, the Comptroller’s Office recommends that the city enter into a formal memorandum of understanding with Memphis Greenspace for the storage and protection of the historic figures and artifacts.

RECORD TOTALS DAY WEEK YEAR
PROPERTY SALES 0 133 1,342
MORTGAGES 0 131 1,047
FORECLOSURE NOTICES 20 39 190
BUILDING PERMITS 0 305 3,056
BANKRUPTCIES 17 135 753
BUSINESS LICENSES 0 53 329
UTILITY CONNECTIONS 0 0 0
MARRIAGE LICENSES 0 0 0