Council delays vote on City Attorney appointment

By Kontji Anthony - bio | email | Twitter | Facebook

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - The Memphis City Council has decided to defer for two weeks any vote on Mayor Pro Tem Myron Lowery's appointment of Veronica Coleman-Davis as City Attorney.

Lowery asked the council for the delay in order to allow the matter of current City Attorney Elbert Jefferson's injunction to be heard in court.  (Click here to read the injunction.)

"I don't want a media circus, so I'm asking the Council to delay," Jefferson said.

Lowery fired Jefferson and had officers escort him out of City Hall moments after being sworn in Friday.  Jefferson then sued, saying Lowery violated the charter by firing him without council approval.  A hearing on the matter is scheduled Wednesday in Shelby County Chancery Court.

Some council members said the matter should never have been up for vote in the first place.

"It was my understanding it was not appropriately before us anyway, because we already have a city attorney," Council member Barbara Ware said.

But Lowery said it would be best for a court to rule on the matter before the Council got involved.

"I made the right decision because I wanted to show cooperation," Lowery said. "I wanted to extend an olive branch to the council so that they wouldn't get bogged down with this today."

Fireworks flew when the matter came up at a committee meeting earlier in the day.  The usually mundane meeting was strained when Jefferson had to sit across from Coleman-Davis.

"It was an attempt to embarrass me," Jefferson said. "If I am the Director, I get to tell the Deputy Director what to do."

"He has followed the wishes of his CEO, who is now gone," Lowery said. "We have a different CEO."

Meanwhile, accusations are flying after Lowery kept Jefferson out of the building until Sunday.

"He had Allan Wade, a licensed attorney, follow me into my office, sit in my office," Jefferson said. "That is about as embarrassing, and as clear a violation of the order."

Lowery questioned why Jefferson wants to stay on, after the former mayor denied Jefferson's request to resign.

"Why did he demand to be let into the building Sunday by himself?  What interest does he have in maintaining the legal files under his direction?"

Jefferson said always works hard.

"I lost my family because I put too much time into this job," he said. "I'm divorced now."

There are also accusations someone tampered with sensitive documents in his office.

"I'm not sure anyone was in the building, but that's easy to check out and I think that should be checked out," Lowery said.

Also Tuesday, the Council approved Jack Sammons as Lowery's new Chief Administrative Officer.

The vote on the city attorney may come in two weeks, depending on the court's ruling.

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