Herenton blasts council over MSARC - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Herenton blasts council over MSARC

Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton

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MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - Mayor Herenton blasted Memphis City Council members Tuesday for the way they're dealing with the crisis at the Memphis Sexual Assault Resource Center, saying the center will stay under city control.

Council chairman Myron Lowery sent a letter to Herenton saying the council wanted to question the director and deputy director who oversee MSARC. But at Noon, the mayor told them he would address the council himself, as the CEO of this city. He did so at a meeting a short time later.

"There's only one CEO that's called the mayor and that's Willie Herenton right now."

Herenton told the council members they disrespected his office with talk of turning over MSARC to Shelby County.

"I don't care about people liking me, but I care a hell of a lot about people respecting me and respecting my office," Herenton said.

Councilman Bill Boyd then asked Herenton why his director, Ken Moody, and deputy director, Yalanda McFadgen, left a council meeting last month before council members could question them about what went wrong with MSARC.

"They were ordered to exit," Herenton said. "They did that under the direction of their mayor. So your disappointments can be directed at me and I accept it."

Herenton said rape victims got lost in politics, a media ratings frenzy, and hidden agendas.

"Some hidden agendas within the personnel compliment," he said. "There were some hidden agendas among some of the elected officials on both the city side and the county side. You have some relationships. This thing was so convoluted."

Herenton said he hears of crimes across the city every single day, and that privilege and power do not make one crime more important than the other.

"All of that, it hurts. I get all of these. And so when you come up or any of you come up and you've got a hue and cry because there's some well-connected people got your heart buttons, got your attentions and you think I'm gonna be moved by that? Hell no. I've got a lot of crime. That's just the reality of it," he said.

In the end, Herenton said MSARC will stay under Memphis control, because most of its clients come out of Memphis.

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Also Tuesday, Mayor Herenton said he had signed off on an independent audit of MSARC early this week. The audit looked into claims the center mismanaged taxpayer money.

"My gut feeling told me that no one in that organization would have been a part of stealing money," he said.

Herenton added he'd be surprised if anyone overseeing MSARC willfully mismanaged taxpayer money.

"We believe that at the end of the day there will be an accurate accounting of all the resources at that center," he said.

The questions began when the state said it reimbursed the city about $540,000, but the city's documents only showed $100,000.

"The state has already acknowledged some of its errors, but like some of most people, including the press, when the errors are made, the damage is already done," Herenton said.

State officials later admitted they were off, and only reimbursed the city just under $350,000.  But that still left a $250,000 gap in unaccounted for taxpayer money.
         
"We want transparency. We want accountability," Herenton said.

At Tuesday's meeting, the mayor's staff handed out new numbers showing the state reimbursed Tennessee $309,000, Arkansas over $11,000, and Mississippi about $24,000.  That total is  more in line with the state's number.

"I've seen hired and fired more executives than all of you cumulative in your lifetime," Herenton said.

The mayor added if malfeasance has happened, whoever did it will feel his wrath.

"Everybody knows me.  All of my division directors.  If they are incompetent, if they are flawed in their judgement, then they are accountable to me," he said.

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