FBI questions former commissioner about "Garage Gate" - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

FBI questions former commissioner about "Garage Gate"

By Lori Brown - bio | email | Follow us on Twitter

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC-TV) - A former Shelby County commissioner says the FBI has questioned him about a controversy known as "Garage Gate".   

John Willingham says the FBI wants to know how the city and county came to receive a $20 million federal grant to built the FedEx Forum parking garage."They asked in effect what did I know, and when did I know it."

It's a grant a Tennessee audit already concluded the city should never have received.

Willingham says he pressed the state to investigate the grant three years ago. "I think the people of Shelby County were dupped."
That investigation concluded that a deal the city cut to get $20-million in federal tax money never should have happened. State auditors found the federal grant required the city to build a non-profit bus station to reduce traffic downtown and promote the use of public transportation.

"The people were lead to believe that this was a not-for-profit parking garage to be used for free parking for the public, and there would be an intermodal bus terminal," said Willingham.

The state audit found the city and county had signed a previous contract with the Memphis Grizzlies that said the garage would be for-profit, with the Grizzlies team receiving the revenue.
The state's audit forced the city to give back $6 million in grant money, but authorities never pressed criminal charges.

"They shouldn't be representing you, and they damn sure shouldn't be representing me," said Willingham.
With the FBI once again asking questions about "Garage Gate", Willingham says he's hopeful light will finally be shed on the costly controversy.
It's something he says the state audit failed to accomplish. "I could go to my grave happy if this was ever really looked at and the public had a chance to understand what happened."


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