Sunday, November 23, 2003

Let's Connect Some Dots, Shall We?

A couple of weeks ago, ABC 24 WPTY did a story about the City's shameful failure to follow through on its program to reimburse drivers whose cars are damaged by potholes on city streets. Reporter Jeni DiPrizio found that hundreds of requests filed had yielded only a handful of reimbursements. There was always some reason to decline payment. She did find, though, that Memphis City Attorney Robert Spence had gotten a reimbursement! (Unfortunately, there's no online version of the story, nor video archive available.)

Spence almost immediately filed a lawsuit for $3.5 million against WPTY and DiPrizio. He's alleging libel and slander. (Side note: the story states that he is no longer associated with his former law firm, and is "now in private practice." Is this simply some arcane requirement of city attorneys, to disassociate from potential sources of conflict, or does it mena what it implies: that Spence has a private practice even as he acts as the City's number one legal representative and advisor? I'd like to know.)

Anyway, Spence has been a busy man. Seems that back in August, just as the State Lottery Commission was seeking a law firm to represent it in West Tennessee, he and a partner formed a legal corporation and got the contract within weeks. Unfortunately again for Spence, the law requires the firm to have been in existence for at least three years. He had read the law as meaning that the principals in the firm had to have at least that much experience, not the actual firm itself. Oops!

The devil, as they say, is in the details:
Allan Wade, attorney for the Memphis City Council, and City Atty. Robert Spence formed their partnership in August for the purpose of working with the lottery. Wade said they joined the Waller-led consortium at the suggestion of lottery officials.

"Robert and I individually have more than three years experience, obviously," Wade said. "The issue of stability of the firm was what that (three-year requirement) was designed to address. . . . That was satisfied when they picked Waller and asked us to join that consortium."

The selection of Wade & Spence helped lottery officials toward the goal of 15 percent minority participation in the awarding of contracts.
A cozy arrangement, eh? The firm that gets the contract needs more blacks to satisfy the law. The City's Numero Uno legal eagle quickly slaps together an LLC and joins in, at the request of the State. Kinda like the old gay staple of the "beard," the woman who acts like the girlfriend to provide cover for the closeted gay.

It's a nice, cozy world that Mr. Spence lives in, isn't it?

No comments: