Council members disagree over Lee settlement - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Council members disagree over Lee settlement

Joseph Lee Joseph Lee

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MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - Memphis City Council members are sounding off about a six-figure settlement that appears to be making its way to former MLGW president Joseph Lee.

The federal government dismissed a corruption case against Lee last year, but not before Lee accumulated a $400,000+ legal bill - a bill Memphians may soon pay for with tax dollars.

The latest filing in the case of Joseph Lee vs. the city of Memphis says the former MLGW president will accept the city's "Offer of Judgement" in the amount of $426,422.33.

City Councilmen Harold Collins and Jim Strickland were not informed of any offer, but they disagree on Lee's case.

"I think the administration is rewarding the mayor's friend - longtime friend - with this settlement," Strickland said.

"The case was dismissed, and so he is entitled to get his legal expenses paid," Collins countered.

It all began in 2007, when the U.S. Attorney's Office accused Lee of ignoring the $16,000 utility bill of former City Councilman Edmund Ford, Senior in exchange for favors on the Council.

Over a period of a year and a half, Lee paid his attorney about $400,000 to fight the accusations. The council spent about the same amount investigating Lee.  Then, the feds dropped the case.

"If we took $400,000 we're giving to Joseph Lee and put it to libraries and community centers, that would serve the public a lot more," Strickland said.

"Mr. Lee was working in the capacity of being the president of MLGW," Collins said. "With that, he deserves to be defended in any case that's brought upon him in his officials duty."

Council members say Mayor Willie Herenton has to sign the offer, so he may be trying to finalize Lee's settlement before he retires July 10th.

Strickland said he has asked the City Council's attorney for an opinion on whether or not the city's administration has the right to settle agreements without Council approval.

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