Dirty Deeds

I probably shouldn’t gloat, but apparently I was right about at least one thing. From the Memphis Daily News:

But Halbert told reporters Thursday that it was an inquiry on whether or not Lowery could vote to set a special election date in July since Lowery stood to become acting mayor. She and several other council members said it might be a conflict of interest.

“While I personally may not have classified my inquiry as an investigation, I noted, it very well may have been just that to the legal department,” Halbert wrote in an email the day after Jefferson made his claim in court. Jefferson refused to say what his investigation is about on the advice of his attorney, Ricky E. Wilkins.

Halbert may have a “bugaboo about ethical conduct” as Bob suggests in the comments of yesterday’s post, but she wouldn’t know an ethical dilemma if it stood beside her and offered to buy her lunch.

Lowery’s right in the MDN article, it was his “responsibility” to vote on the matter. That Lowery and Halbert were on opposing sides of the issue has NOTHING to do with the ethical nature of his vote, or ability to vote. That we’re still debating his prior ability to vote on a Council matter says a lot about the people who are working to undermine him.

In the meantime, City Attorney Elbert Jefferson, as the “chief ethical officer” of the city, is asserting his “privilege” over the very Executive he serves. That’s an interesting proposition. Of course, there’s a lot about this whole business with Jefferson that’s interesting.

First of all, in the lawsuit against Lowery, Jefferson sued Lowery personally, not in his capacity as Mayor. Why? Because Ricky Wilkins, Jefferson’s Attorney, works for the city too, and could not sue the executive he serves. That’s a conflict of interest. Also, Jefferson probably wanted to delegitimize Lowery, the Mayor, in the process. Personally, I think the judge should have thrown the thing out saying that Lowery, the man, hadn’t done ANYTHING to Jefferson, and that if Jefferson had a gripe, he needed to sue the City.

That’s not what happened. The judge ruled that the Mayor could not dismiss a Director without Council approval, which he conceded at the City Council meeting on Tuesday. We knew this. Why didn’t Lowery just concede defeat and move on? Because Jefferson is also seeking monetary damages against Lowery, the man, not the office of Mayor.

Then there’s the whole ethics thing. The article talks about the Ethics Commission, which DOES NOT EXIST in any tangible way. From the article

But the city’s ethics commission has never been established. Its members have yet to be selected because city council members have had difficulty finding one member who is a retired jurist, one of the requirements for the commission.

So in the absence of an “Ethics Commission”, how does the “Chief Ethical Officer” address ethical concerns independently? Does he even address them independently, or can he use his position as a personal political witch-hunt for whatever purpose he deems necessary? One would think an independent council that required City Council approval would be the least biased way to address concerns, in the absence of a Commision. Who knows?

Nobody does. Not one single freakin’ person I’ve talked to knows anything about anything. The Ethics rules adopted are a start, but without the Commission, what does it matter? If the City Attorney is the “Chief Ethical Officer”, who does he report to? A mythical commission? Leprechauns? Unicorns? Ed. Note: This Morning’s CA reports that Jefferson is sending the ethics matters to outside legal Counsel.

The charter is vague on a lot of things, but one thing that is crystal clear is that the Mayor, whomever that is, appoints division heads with the consent of the City Council as affirmed by Judge Evans’ decision.

Sec. 35. Chief executive officer; appointment and supervision of all divisions, boards, employees and city officers; to devote entire time to office.
The Chief Executive Officer of the City of Memphis shall be the mayor, who shall be vested with and exercise the executive and administrative power of the City, shall be authorized to administer, supervise and control all divisions, boards, agencies, offices and employees of the City and shall see that the ordinances and provisions of the Charter are observed, except as otherwise specifically provided. Such administration shall be conducted by and through divisional directors under the supervision and control of the mayor, as provided herein. He shall devote his entire time and attention to the duties of his office.

Subject to provisions of the Charter including civil service regulations thereof, and ordinances, the Mayor shall appoint and when he deems it necessary for the good of the people, may suspend or remove any employees of the City of Memphis, including any appointive officers or department heads provided for by or under the Charter. The Mayor may delegate to any appointive administrative officer the power to appoint, suspend or remove subordinates in that officer’s division, department, office or agency subject to such conditions and limitations as he may prescribe.

The Mayor shall appoint the members of all boards and commissions, said appointments to be made with the approval of a majority of the Council; the removal of all members of boards and commissions shall be effected in the same manner and subject to the same procedures provided for directors. Members of Boards and Commissions shall continue in office until their successors have been appointed and approved.

That said, some reports have noted that Evans instructed the Lowery, the man (because remember, neither the Mayor NOR the City was being sued) that Jefferson couldn’t be suspended without “a serious infraction or incident.”, which is clearly contrary to the section listed above (though the CA report says state law has supremacy here).

So what’s the solution? Lowery has to get enough votes on the Council to get rid of Jefferson, which is about as likely as me winning the lottery and moving to a tropical island with a bunch of hot models or something. Or he can drop it, and let the next Mayor deal with it. If he does that, he needs to be ready to do nothing more than cut ribbons, because there’s no way in hell he’ll bridge the gap to win the election.

So what’s this all about? Money probably, power likely, but I can’t prove either. Money starts wars and fights and lawsuits, so it stands to reason that it would be, at the very least, part of the reason. Power is one of those things that everyone wants, or thinks they have until they find out they don’t.

In short, this is dirty, one way or the other, and Myron Lowery isn’t the one suffering (though he might disagree on that point), but the citizens of Memphis and the office of Mayor, who Jefferson is SUPPOSED to serve. What is his agenda? How many more agendas will emerge?

We’ve got 70 days before the election to find out.

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