Tension, walkout during council MSARC discussion - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Tension, walkout during council MSARC discussion

By Kontji Anthony - bio | email | Follow us on Twitter

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - Tuesday, members of the Memphis City Council made it clear they want city leaders to show them the money meant for the Memphis Sexual Assault Resource Center.

A council committee meeting became heated Tuesday as council members looked for solutions to a nursing shortage and funding discrepancies at MSARC. Council members say the city was entitled to nearly $350,000 in state funding. while the city budget says the rape crisis center received just $100,000.

The meeting began with the two people who oversee the Memphis Sexual Assault Resource Center, Director Ken Moody and Deputy Director Yalanda McFagden, slipping out of the room before City CAO Keith McGee began his presentation.

As Moody and McFagden left, Councilman Kemp Conrad, watched them in confusion.  McGee then addressed the $250,000 dollars that was unaccounted for in the budget.

"We will be in communication with the state of Tennessee to make sure the exact numbers are communicated," McGee said. "I will not today give another number."

Soon, the meeting got ugly.

Conrad: "I want to make a motion that we adjourn this meeting and we hear this in executive session."
Brown: "No sir."
Conrad: "I think most council members want to hear from the people who are responsible for this, the taxpayers want to hear it."

Councilman Joe Brown said, as meeting chair, he would not accept the motion seconded by Councilman Bill Morrison."

Brown: "No sir, no sir, no sir.  I'm not going to..."
Morrison: "You have no choice, Mr. Chairman."
Brown: "Yes I do."
Morrison: "No you don't."

After Conrad made a motion to overrule Brown's decision, Brown would not accept that either.

"I respectfully request to hear from the director and the deputy director of the center," Conrad said.

Then, Conrad, Councilmen Shea Flinn, Morrison, Jim Strickland and then Bill Boyd, stormed out of the meeting.  As Brown explained his decision, Councilman Harold Collins also left.

"We've got the public here," Brown said. "We've got the media here and they want to hear.  You've got women here who've possibly been a victim."

As McGee continued his presentation, Council Chairman Myron Lowery then entered the room and interrupted.

Lowery: "I just came in to say I don't mind if you move this to executive."
Brown: "I want to hear the CAO out today."
Lowery: "That's fine. You are chair of this committee. That's fine, but I do not mind this moving this to executive session."

Brown then agreed to move it to executive session, only after hearing McGee's presentation.

After the meeting, Conrad explained why he walked out.

"He can't just ramrod things through," Conrad said.  "We've got scarce time down here to sit through a charade of a meeting.  I wanted the balance of the time so we could hear from the people that are responsible."
 
"It goes usually without objection," council member Bill Morrison added. "The chairman of the Public Services Committee decided not to do it that way, and unfortunately, I'm not going to sit in a committee where we don't follow the rules."
 
Brown said he wanted to continue the meeting for the sake of the media and all the citizens who took off work to be there.

"Getting information out is important," he said. "My wife wants to know the update on this center. I've got two daughters who need an update on this center."

Meanwhile, Chairman Myron Lowery said he broke into the meeting to simply make sure proper procedure was being followed..

"I wanted to make sure parliamentary procedure is followed in all of our meetings," Lowery said. "If there's a motion and a second, it must be acted on."

To be clear - moving the meeting to executive session means all council members would have to be present.  In the end, council members held a marathon executive session without the director and deputy director present.

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