Friday, August 13, 2004

Half-Bakered: 1 Darrell Phillips: Late

Tonight's WMC5 news carried a story by Darrell Phillips on questions about former County Mayor Jim Rout and his contracts and connections with SCB Computer Technology Inc.
Action News Five has learned a company that did millions of dollars in Shelby County contracts during Mayor Jim Rout's administration nominated him to their board of directors weeks before he left office. And we've also discovered an effort to push through a controversial last minute contract for hundreds of thousands of dollars.

During Former Shelby County Mayor Jim Rout's administration, a company called SCB Computer Technology, Inc. earned nearly eight million dollars in county contracts, like this $1.5 million contract to help bring County computers to compliance before Y2K.

In fact, there's a long list of deals, sending County dollars to SCB.

Action News 5 has learned that three weeks before he left office, Mayor Rout was nominated to SCB's Board of Directors.
There's just one problem. The Commercial Appeal ran this story two years ago! Of course, it was in an uncritical Business Section news story. Not even the Memphis Flyer asked questions.

What you usually hear when Rout's current life is referred to is his association with Jack Morris Auto Glass, where he's the president of marketing, or some such. His board positions with SCB (now CIBER) and Cumberland Bancorp (now CIVITAS BankGroup) aren't usually mentioned.

Anyway, I was the first person to raise these questions two years ago, on August 15, 2002!
Today's Commercial Appeal has a Business section story about the post-political plans of Shelby County Mayor Jim Rout. It seems he's up for election to the Board of Directors of SCB Computer Technology.

It's a bland story that mentions Rout's salary would be $20,000, plus a bit more. But nowhere in the story do you find anything about SCB's Shelby County connections. And there's the real story.

SCB is a giant firm, with wide and deep roots here in Shelby County. They are players and getting Rout would be a lucrative coup.

Then there's the whole issue of a leading politician going to a huge corporation which has intimate dealings with the local government, which seems like Post-Politics 101 to you and me but is apparently High Latin 650 to politicians and businessmen. Regular goobs like us don't understand how politics works, and how subtle and sopshisticated is the mind of these folks that they can pull off this kind of jump without breaking ethics, rules or laws.

Certainly the highly sophisticated types at the CA aren't bothered by any of this. They didn't even bother to report it!
Also here, on September 15, 2002:
In Friday, September 13th's Commercial Appeal, the paper tries to get us to believe that County Mayor Jim Rout will soon be the main marketer for Jack Morris Auto Glass, nominally called the president. But the story's most important point is brushed past:
Rout is also on the board of directors of SCB
Computer Technology Inc. of Memphis - he was elected this week
- and Cumberland Bancorp Inc., the Nashville-based parent of
BankTennessee, based in Collierville.That is where Rout's real job is going to be. As I covered earlierRout's position at SCB is pretty clearly an ethical bad idea. SCB is deeply involved in County and County Schools business; he'll be selling to his old employees and buddies. Great profits for SCB, though. Same applies for Cumberland Bancorp.

The Jack Morris job is just cover. Watch how the CA refers to him from now on.

Can anyone tell me if Jack Morris is any relation to former County Mayor Bill Morris, of "temporary wheel tax" fame?
Ha! Advantage: Half-Bakered.

I'm glad to see the story finally get some coverage, just sorry it took so long. And hopefully, now that they've found it, they'll stay on it and get some real answers. That's the television news problem: dropping stories when interest wanes or they drag on too long.

Stay with it, Darrell. And call me if you need some help.

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