April 9, 2002: Greyhound CEO Craig Lentzsch tells Mayor Willie Herenton in a letter that his proposal to move the bus firm’s Downtown Memphis station is too expensive. Herenton proposed a land swap that would move Greyhound to Airways and Winchester. Instead, Lentzsch suggested getting federal or state grant funds to build an “intermodal station” to be shared by Greyhound and the city bus agency, Memphis Area Transit Authority.
Oct. 2, 2002: Herenton meets with MATA officials to discuss the intermodal station.
June 2004: Memphis attorney Florence Johnson pays Greyhound $10,000 for an option to buy its Greyhound property — an option then held by Herenton.
May 17, 2005: The city buys 8.8 acres near the airport as a site to build an intermodal station. The deed says the land is for “the use and benefit of Memphis Area Transit Authority.” MATA later repays the city.
September 2005: The option to purchase the Greyhound site is transferred to the mayor’s friend, Elvin Moon.
May 2006: Moon sells the option. The buyer pays $116,000. Moon keeps $25,000 and passes the rest — $91,000 — to Herenton’s private real estate firm, Herenton Investment.
Nov. 12, 2008: A federal grand jury hears testimony from Moon and the mayor’s special assistant, Pete Aviotti, who helped negotiate discussions to move Greyhound from Downtown.
Just looking at the timeline alone, it seems evident that the Mayor is treading on the margins of ethical behavior. He personally financially benefitted from “inside information” relating to the possible sale of some prime property (Remember his new Convention Center Committiee from last September?) If this were a stock trade, the SEC might have investigated…back in the day when they did such things. Instead, the Memphis US Attorney’s office is investigating, and hopefully crafting a better case than their last major outing, lest they further damage their reputation.
Memphis, you deserve better, but you’re not going to “get” anything better until you “demand” something better. I’m not saying anything Herenton has allegedly done is illegal, but it sure stinks to high heaven. Memphis deserves leadership whose motives aren’t constantly in question. That’s part of a big nasty pie of issues that keep Memphis divided, but it’s a big part.
I may have more on this later after I consume some piping hot coffee product.