Saturday, August 08, 2009

Where Are They Now

Mayor Myron Lowery has made himself available for all questions and comments from all the citizens of Memphis. I emphasize all because different groups have different concerns. For the past two days he has been making his rounds on the airwaves clearing up some of this misinformation that's circulating. Some of us like the chance to talk to our elected officials directly. For us he couldn't have made a better move. He went on the "Dre and Zeke Show" to address the white voters. Then he went on the "Bev Johnson Show" to address the blacks. Today he spent a hour and a half on the "Andrew Clarksenior Show" to talk to everybody that can or cannot vote. Yesterday he held an unprecedented town hall meeting down at City Hall.

I must admit initially I wasn't a Myron Lowery supporter, but since he took office on an interim basis that has changed. His first official action though controversial was an indication of things to come. I like the bold and decisive choices he has made in the past week. There is little if any doubt about what he is doing. His radio appearances are just icing on the cake. I appreciate him telling the black community where he draws the line and telling the whites Willie Herenton is no longer the mayor. Since he did a fine job of answering everybody and their unscripted questions.Why didn't he get any of the complaints and criticisms we hear and see on the radio and in the news paper? These people have what are known as stubborn facts. Those things they believe because they reject the truth. Andrew's producer Ms. Hardiman asked the million dollar question. "Where are they now"?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Waiting fo a show where he isn't a guest.

3:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Memphis pays former mayor Herenton's legal bills
Lawyer rushes $55K through for defense in federal probe
By Amos Maki (Contact) and Marc Perrusquia (Contact), Memphis Commercial Appeal
Friday, September 4, 2009

Days before former Memphis mayor Willie Herenton left office, a top aide decided taxpayers should cover $55,000 in legal bills Herenton ran up fighting a federal grand jury investigation.

Now, the FBI also is questioning the decision of that aide, City Atty. Elbert Jefferson.

"What I told the agent is we've paid invoices for lawyers who don't have a contract for as long as I've been here," said Jefferson.

"I absolutely am not paying for the criminal defense of Willie Herenton.".

Jefferson rushed the payment to Herenton's lawyer, Robert Spence, a former city attorney now in private practice, as the mayor's 17-year tenure wound down this summer.

A grand jury has been exploring corruption allegations against Herenton for more than a year.

Those legal bills, obtained by The Commercial Appeal, show Spence was bracing for possible bribery, extortion and mail fraud charges. At the center of the investigation is a $91,000 payment Herenton received in connection with a city-backed Downtown redevelopment project.

Now, federal investigators also are exploring Jefferson's decision to let the city pay Spence's bills.

Jefferson said Thursday an FBI agent questioned him this week about his expedited payment to Spence. A check request signed by Jefferson was stamped "RUSH'' and Spence's bill was paid June 28, twelve days before Herenton originally planned to leave office.

Spence's bills make repeated references to aspects of the grand jury probe and even reference a possible counter allegation of prosecutorial misconduct against the government.

And Spence said his arrangement to provide legal representation was with Herenton, not the city. The attorney, who charged Herenton $210 an hour, declined to say whether he thought it was appropriate for the city to pay his bills, saying that wasn't his call.

Nonetheless, Jefferson, a Herenton appointee who also serves as the city's chief ethics officer, maintained that the fees paid to Spence were for general legal advice to Herenton -- and not a criminal defense. Jefferson said his office couldn't render that advice because he and his office were involved in an ethics investigation of Herenton that the former mayor requested.

"I have an ongoing ethics investigation of the mayor related to some of the same issues the FBI is looking into. We were providing him legal advice through a separate person because this office had a conflict."

News of the payment comes amid an already contentious debate about last-minute expenditures by Herenton.

An ongoing lawsuit filed in Chancery Court by attorney Ronald Krelstein alleges the Herenton administration acted illegally when it paid $425,000 in legal bills incurred by former Light, Gas and Water president Joseph Lee.

3:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nationally, municipal practices vary on paying legal fees for public officials.

Yet, one critic said he's concerned about the oversight of legal payments in Memphis, where the City Charter is silent on indemnifying or agreeing to pay legal fees for officials who come under criminal investigation.

"Public money cannot be used for private benefit,'' said Dan Norwood, a Memphis attorney whose specialties include public interest law.

"There should be very significant oversight of payments of outside legal fees. It's shocking to me that apparently there isn't any.''

Charles Thompson, executive director of the International Municipal Lawyers Association, said practices vary nationally on indemnifying officials who come under investigation.

Thompson said Montgomery County, Md., where he once served as county attorney, had a policy to initially pay legal fees for officials under investigation. If the official was indicted the payments would stop, but the county would reimburse an official for additional fees if the official was exonerated.

Thompson said that in his experience, jurisdictions with no indemnification policy generally left a decision to cover legal fees to the local legislative body. In this case, the Memphis City Council did not take action.

Bills documenting the payment to Spence show he has been zealously preparing against a possible indictment and that he may be contemplating allegations of his own.

Spence makes reference to prosecutorial misconduct in at least two places. The bills list more than $1,400 in charges to research prosecutorial abuse cases and to "review and analyze materials provided by client regarding prosecutorial misconduct.''

The bills don't spell out details of any misconduct but the ex-mayor has said publicly more than once that federal prosecutors are targeting him because he's black.

Privately, Herenton has told close associates he believes the government is leaking investigative details of the grand jury, which, by law, meets in secret.

Those assertions escalated in recent months as The Commercial Appeal reported on the government's interest in the payment Herenton secretly received while publicly pushing to redevelop the Greyhound bus station Downtown. Herenton also tapped more than $50,000 from a fund financed by businessmen to stage annual mayoral Christmas parties, converting the money to his personal use.

The newspaper obtained many of those details from sources with personal knowledge of the deals and from public records.

Spence's bills list at least two meetings between him and federal officials, including a Feb. 20 meeting where he spoke with prosecutors from the local U.S. Attorney's Office and "with DOJ'' -- the Department of Justice. The Department of Justice, based in Washington, supervises U.S. attorneys stationed across the country. That supervision includes granting authorization to conduct sensitive investigations of elected officials as well as reviewing complaints of misconduct.

Spokesmen for both the Justice Department and the Memphis U.S. Attorney's Office declined comment Thursday.

Spence said he had no specific allegations of misconduct he could discuss. He also declined to say whether he believed the mayor would be indicted, saying rather that he was simply preparing for possible scenarios.

"I'm a lawyer. It's my job to anticipate the unanticipated. I plan and prepare for a rainy day that I hope never comes.''

3:04 PM  
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