By Appointment Only: Connie Mathews - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Reported by Andrew Douglas

By Appointment Only: Connie Mathews

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - As the mother of two of former Tennessee state senator John Ford's children, Connie Mathews, is no stranger to headlines.

Ford is federal prison, serving two consecutive sentences for wire fraud and corruption.

Now, Action News 5 has learned Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton - one of Ford's former political colleagues - has hand-picked Mathews to run an important post at the Memphis Central library.

"I think it's the backbone of the library," Fay Levine said of Mathew's new position.

Levine worked 27 years in the catalog department, most of it as department head.  Documents obtained by Action News 5 show Mathews' new post is as "Assistant Library Cataloging."

"Can you imagine putting things in a catalogue that are misspelled?  And then how are you going to find the material?" Levine asked.  "It's essential.  It's one of the top jobs that doesn't meet the public, because we prepare everything that makes the material accessible."

It's a meticulous job that pays more than $28,000 a year, where any wrong number - and any misspelling - could lose books and materials forever.

For Mathews, that may be a real problem. Her job application, obtained by the Action News 5 Investigators, is chock-full of spelling and grammatical mistakes.

Click here to review the application.
 
"There's just thousands of rules that have to be followed," Levine said. "Without that, it'd just be chaos."

Mathews doesn't have any library experience or a college degree.  Sallie Johnson worked at the Memphis library 41 years.

"College degrees - that was the minimum requirement," Johnson said. "And they - some of them - had library experience."

Johnson left with the former library director almost a year ago.

"Minimum qualifications are always included in the job postings, so you would know whether it was a position you would qualify for," she said.

Johnson said as Deputy Director, not only would the job be posted, but there would be experience requirements and an interview panel to screen the candidate.  But that's all changed.  Under new library leadership, all new library employees are appointed by the Mayor - no screening necessary.

The signatures on Connie Mathews' application include the new Deputy Director of the library - former Mayoral bodyguard Michael Gray - along with Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton.

When Action News 5 approached the mayor about the latest appointee at a recent city event, he didn't want to hear it.
 
"Let me tell you one thing I'm gonna to tell you publicly," Herenton said. "If you ask me anything other than about this event, I have no comment, so I've said that to you respectfully, so those are the ground rules, so we done covered that, ok?"  
 
Larry Cannon is president of the volunteer group Friends of the Library.

"You ought to be able to look at the application and see if they're qualified," he said.

Justified or not, the mayor won't discuss - but is willing to appoint - without oversight.

Mathews' position makes her eligible for a city pension. The position was not posted to the public, and there's no word on how many people filled out applications for the job.

Herenton has filled 12 positions at the library in the last 60 days.  Mathews started last week.


Click here to send an email to Andrew Douglas.

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