Thursday, March 16, 2006

Memphis Political Incest: A Case Study

Wow. I started Googling from one name and found a trail of connections that blows my mind. Sit down, get comfortable and hold on.

It begins in this story, from WMC/5, about former Herenton political appointee and campaign director Reginald French. Let the excerpts speak for themselves:
...[A] nine million dollar city deal to buy Oracle software that sent a two-million dollar commission to French.

Transcripts taken in a lawsuit last year, show that French left his city job as Director of Public Services in 1997 - amid sexual harassment complaints - to do consulting work with a company called ASW that had information technology - or IT - contracts with the city. He then joined that company and ultimately became its majority owner.

In these transcripts, French says he and his wife simultaneously started another IT company called Integrated Technology and set up shop in the same office space at 100 North Main.
This is the same Reginald French named a couple of weeks ago by Dewey Clark, testifying in the trial of Atlanta mayor Bill Campbell, as a front (he and his wife) for laundering a $2000 campaign contribution to Mayor Herenton.

But check this out, from the same story:
French is now running for County Sheriff. His spokeswoman, Deidre Malone....
This is, if I'm not mistaken, County Commissioner Deidre Malone! She is President of her own business, the Carter Malone Group.

Halfway there. Be patient.

The Carter Malone Group does various PR and marketing work for a number of clients, including the First Tennessee Bank Housing Corporation.

The 1stTBHC is the community investment subsidiary of First Tennessee Bank and First Horizon. One of the projects that 1stTBHC was involved with (to the tune of at least five million dollars) was the Uptown Village renovations.

Uptown Village was the massive re-urbanisation of the former Hurt Village Housing Project just north of downtown. The whole Housing Project was torn down and its residents scattered about the city. A few public housing and Section 8 units have been rebuilt there, but mostly its private development apartments that start at $700 a month. (According to the big sign just down from the bus terminal. Go see for yourself.)

Hurt Village was a part of the Memphis Housing Authority. Guess who sits on the Board of Directors? That's right, Deidre Malone! Small world, huh?

That's just what Googling around for a half-hour or so late at night turned up. And I didn't even get into the Henry Turley / Jack Belz connections to Uptown.

And don't forget the original story that started all this. Reginald French is now running for County Sherrif. His spokeswoman, and possible future colleague as County Commissioner, is Diedre Malone. They will be working together, setting budget and policing priorities.

But wait! There's more.

The current Director of the Department of Housing and Community Development / Memphis Housing Authority is Robert Lipscomb. He was reappointed as Director in January of 2004. His top assistant is former Chief Finance Director Roland McElrath, who was shifted to the Memphis Housing Authority when he had a falling out with the City Council, apparently.

McElrath's replacement was Joseph Lee. The whole complex, sordid tale is related in this Memphis Flyer story. Lee was responsible for the budget projections and plans that depleted the City's reserve fund and sent us into such a severe budget crisis that thousands were sent into temporary layoffs, services were drastically cut, and our City's bond ratings were lowered for the third time, to one step above a B rating.

Lee is now the President of MLG&W, the City's public utility. Lipscomb is doing double duty as Director of MHA, and as our new Chief Financial Officer, along with McElrath.

Oh, and now WPTY/24 just recently reported on a preliminary investigation by the FBI into irregularities in the construction of a home for City Councillor Rickey Peete's grandmother, using an MHA program she is apparently not eligible for! (More here. Do a "Search in Page" for "Peete" twice for both stories.)

Whew! And that's just scratching the surface. For such a large metropolis we sure do have a tight-knit little group running things, don't we?

I'm sure those who follow politics much more closely can undoubtedly tell me more about the past relationship between Lipscomb and Herenton. And remember, this was just Google-searching for less than an hour now, late at night. Imagine what, say, a newspaper could do with all their resources, knowledge and contacts!

Welcome to Memphis.

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