Rent-Seeker

I’ve been thinking a little more about this idea of the City seeking rent from the Shelby County Schools.

According to the Commercial Appeal, Council member Phillip Spinosa proposed the idea Tuesday night. But honestly, and in all due respect, I have a hard time believing that Spinosa came up with this idea himself.

Spinosa is a new addition to the City Council. He’s been in office less than a year. He wasn’t around when the deals were getting made and all the stuff was happening with School consolidation, so I’m left wondering why he would even think to charge rent for buildings the City might own, that are in use by the school district.

If he did come up with it, that’s some seriously “outside the box” thinking…seriously flawed, but way outside the box nonetheless.

But after thinking about it a little bit more, and re-reading the original report, something curious comes up. Why does it appear that City Council attorney Allan Wade is describing Spinosa’s plan when Spinosa himself is short on details?

My theory? This is really Allan Wade’s idea.

Wade’s Island of Lost Toys

screen-shot-2016-12-07-at-7-00-07-pmAllan Wade has been a part of the City of Memphis government for so long, finding a time when he’s not mentioned about City business is hard. First appointed in 1988 by Mayor Dick Hackett, Wade has been a fixture at City Hall for the better part of 3 decades.

Because of his long tenure, and long list of entanglements, its hard to even put a timeline together on Wade. He’s omnipresent, but not necessarily in the headlines.

And since the archives of the Commercial Appeal are a wreck, and nothing before 2009 can be found, getting the history from multiple sources is just about damn impossible.

Thankfully the Memphis Flyer has an exhaustive archive of Allan Wade’s work, from attorney fee dustups to Memphis Networx, to the apparent conflict of interest between Wade and former Law partner Robert Spence in the MLGW Joseph Lee III case.

Elsewhere, there have been glowing profiles, investigative reports, fights with Council Members, and more reports on his earnings from the City.

via the City of Memphis
via the City of Memphis
Those earnings, by the way, have ballooned to over $4.2 million dollars over the last decade on top of the 100+ thousand dollar salary he receives for his part-time job with the City Council.

Allan Wade has made a shit-ton of money as a city employee, who also just so happens to work separately as a city contractor.

Those extra fees have come from everything from the School funding fight, to battles that haven’t captured the headlines over the past several years.

And I’m not saying he over-billed, or that the fees aren’t justified, or even a part of his ongoing contracts with the city…which are separate from his part-time employment.

I am saying there’s a lot of questions, some of which that have been asked a thousand times before, and answered dismissively by Mr. Wade himself, about conflicts, or the appearance of conflicts in his dual role with the City.

The Spinosa Proposition

Which brings us back to the Spinosa rent idea. I’ve already said I don’t think it originated with him, and as I said, I base that on his short time on the Council, and that Councilmembers don’t usually come up with such audacious plans on their own.

But Wade has been there for decades, and he was involved in the School funding dispute, which, no doubt, along with the school consolidation dispute, addressed the issue of the use of buildings owned by the City and the County for use by the County Schools.

What we don’t know, is which buildings are involved or the terms that were laid out to the County School District. Hopefully, in the next few days we’ll have that information.

As for Wade’s role representing the Council or the City in this burgeoning dispute that will, no doubt end up in court…there’s certainly a lot of money to be made.

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