More on the Cooper Allegations

It took a couple of days for our daily to notice, but this morning the CA finally had something on the Joe Cooper Testimony.

The article is a sight longer than the one referenced yesterday, but ultimately, no new information…except for this exoneration of two former council members…

“There were a couple of people that we never really could build a relationship with. But in terms of people that we were close with … Rickey Peete was an example, Barbara Swearengen (Ware), E.C. Jones. We were never close with John Vergos, Carol Chumney.”

Cooper brings up the specter of a culture of favors, not surprising in and of itself, that has a hold on both the City and County governments here in Shelby County. From the article…

Working for real estate developers, Cooper claimed to have nurtured that relationship with a smattering of local bureaucrats and elected members of the Memphis City Council and Shelby County Commission — perhaps as many as 20 to 25 officials in all, he said.

“It was all part of the overall umbrella of building relationships and solidifying a way to help us be successful in our zoning applications … There’s favors done every day down there. And sometimes it’s done in a legal way, but it’s a psychological thing.

“If I’m on your fund-raising committee and I raise you $50,000, you’re not going to vote against me unless there’s 500 people down there raising hell about it.”

That relationship, wether built on favors or merely friendships that arise as the result of contact, could bring down many of those 20-25 “officials, or at least taint their public personas. Certainly, none of them want their name mentioned by Cooper, but Cooper is singing like a bird.

As damaging as these investigations have been to both the Council and some of it’s members, it is vitally important that those who would accept favors in exchange for votes be routed out of our governing institutions. Personally, I am glad that Cooper is playing the role of snitch. Someone had to, and it’s about time. I can’t speak to Cooper’s reliability, nor his motives, aside from trying to stay out of the pokey, but it’s about time that someone is shining a light on those who prefer to operate in the shadows.

What happens next is the big question. One would think that if the prosecutors had something solid on the people Cooper named, Jones and Swearengen Ware, they would have indicted them by now. This may be a calculated risk on the part of the prosecutor, to get Jones and Ware to come to the table. It seems unlikely, but considering the Government’s track record of convictions in this case, it just might work.

Who gets indicted next depends on who else is singing. I think more indictments are a sure thing. I just hope it doesn’t derail the new Council, or create more strife in the city. With Primary and General elections coming up in August and November, the manner in which any new indictments arrive could play a role in the climate out there. Do your gig guys, but don’t screw it up for the rest of us.

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