Future of MSARC funding unclear - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Future of MSARC funding unclear

By Anna Marie Hartman - bio | email | Follow us on Twitter

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - City and county leaders are grappling over who will fund the Memphis Sexual Assault Resource Center. 

Eleven Memphis City Council members voted 6 to 5 Thursday night to pull all funding from MSARC.  Shelby County Commissioners are already considering taking on the task, while the man in the middle is Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton. 

City Council chairman Myron Lowery says if the city can't properly run MSARC, he's prepared to let the county step in.

"Something needs to be done immediately," he said.

But Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton made it clear earlier this week he's not ready to let go of the troubled rape crisis center.

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

"When the mayor spoke to the council he didn't have any solutions. He said, 'I'm investigating and I'm the boss and I will report to you when I'm good and ready.' That's not good enough," Lowery said.

While rape victims hang in the balance and a city power struggle unfolds, Shelby County Commissioners are waiting in the wings to see if they can become part of the solution. 

"We have an interest we have a compelling interest to be at the table and have this discussion," Commissioner Mike Carpenter said Thursday.

According to Carpenter, commissioners will consider his proposal to take over MSARC at a meeting next week. But Carpenter says the city has to be on board. 

"Certainly the Council holds the purse strings. The mayor is the contracting authority, so I think we all need one another in this," he said.

In the meantime there are concerns that victims of violent crimes could become pawns in a political game of chess. 

"We do not need to play politics with something this important," Lowery said.

The Memphis City Council vote to pull MSARC's funding could come up again in budget committee wrap up meetings, which begin next week.

If the full council votes to take away the funding, Mayor Herenton could veto that decision. The Council, in turn, could override that veto.

Copyright 2009 WMC-TV. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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