Letter demands Memphis not pay Lee's legal bills

Joseph Lee
Joseph Lee

By Nick Kenney - bio | email | Twitter | Facebook

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - Just when you thought the fight over former MLGW president Joseph Lee's legal bills was finally settled, a Memphis lawyer may sue the city of Memphis if the deal goes through.

Although the city agreed recently to reimburse Lee more than $400,000 in legal fees, another courtroom battle may be on the horizon. Friday, attorney Ron Krelstein sent the letter Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton and City Hall on behalf of a private citizen named Al Thomas.  Citing case law, the letter demands the city not pay former MLGW President Joseph Lee, claiming it would be illegal to do so.

Click here to read the letter.

But, before the case can proceed to court, U of M law professor Steve Mulroy says Thomas and his attorney must first prove three things.

"That he is a taxpayer, that the city's payments to Joseph Lee is clearly illegal, not just a bad idea, but against the law, and that he has previously given the city of Memphis a chance to avoid theses illegalities," Mulroy said.

According to Mulroy, proving Lee acted illegally would prove difficult, especially since the federal government dropped its case.  Any further legal action would require a chancery court to make it's own decision regarding Lee's actions.

"If the officer's actions were clearly arbitrary, corrupt, or illegal, then he clearly wasn't acting on behalf of the city and the city therefore has not interest in reimbursing him," Mulroy said.

At this point, it's all speculation.  Krelstein's letter requests an answer from the city without actually threatening a lawsuit.

"Governments are not real big on providing answers to individual citizens," Mulroy said. "You know, 'We've already taken our actions and we've already gone on. At that point it's up to you to decide whether you want to take us to court.'"

The letter does imply the threat of a lawsuit.  Krelstein and Thomas both declined requests for comment.

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