Thursday, May 26, 2005

Mayor Herenton and the Other Shoe

It's hard to do the Tennessee Waltz when you're waiting for the other shoe.

Remember how rumors began to swirl more than a year ago that Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton was the subject of an FBI investigation? Memphis Flyer political columnist Jackson Baker even ran a short item wondering if a Herenton resignation was at hand.

Then late last year, Mayor Herenton himself called a press conference in which he admitted he was the subject of an FBI investigation. The City Council even stopped their own investigation to let the FBI proceed. The subject was speculated to be connected to the complex bond deal that Memphis utility MLG&W had undertaken. The matter subsequently disappeared. Herenton hasn't said a word since.

Then on Thursday, the Tennesee Waltz scandal exploded. In very early reports like this, from the Nashville Business Journal, it was said that Mayor Herenton was also being arrested:
Four legislators arrested J. Holly Dolloff Nashville Business Journal Federal Bureau of Investigation agents arrested four legislators this morning as part of a purported sting operation. Those arrested were state Senators Ward Crutchfield (D-Chattanooga) and John Ford (D-Memphis) and representatives Katherine Bowers (D-Memphis) and Chris Newton (D-Benton.) Capital Hill insiders say the arrests are related to a bill the four sponsored, changing the distribution of excess property. The legislation's language calls for all surplus computer equipment not distributed to public schools to be disposed of through "qualified electronic recycling companies." Those same insiders, who asked not to be quoted, say a lobbyist working with the U.S. Attorney in Memphis offered payoffs to legislators in return for their support of the bill. Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton also has been arrested, and a total of 12 arrest warrants have been filed. The U.S. attorney has scheduled a press conference for 11 a.m.
That passage disappeared, but it was snagged and reposted by a commenter at the Nashville City Paper.

Memphis blogger The Flypaper Theory, also caught it. This time, via the Nashville Scene:
Sources tell us that Representative Larry Miller (D-Memphis), Senator Jeff Miller (R-Cleveland) and Representative Ulysses Jones (D-Memphis) are also on the hook. And Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton.
So, was someone just slightly ahead of the curve here? It's been intimated that there are more arrests and indictments to come in the Tennessee Waltz scandal. Certainly the legislative bills that were filed in support of the central charge in the indictments (taking bribes to effect certain legislative action) had more sponsors than just the ones so far arrested and indicted, as noted above.

Is Herenton somehow involved? Or was this one of those strange goofs that sometimes happens when reports start running ahead of the action? I hope that someone in the Memphis media pool looks into this.

INSTANT UPDATE Thanks to an emailer who gives this pointer to the Google cache of the Nashville Biz Journal story, the one with the Herenton mention. Great catch!

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