High-profile attorney removed from city payroll - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

High-profile attorney removed from city payroll

By Kontji Anthony - bio | email | Twitter | Facebook

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - The City of Memphis has parted ways with high-profile attorney Ricky Wilkins in the tumultuous transition of power at City Hall.

Wilkins worked on Beale Street litigation under former Mayor Willie Herenton's administration.

Mayor Pro Tem Myron Lowery held a news conference Tuesday to say Wilkins has been cut from the city payroll.

Lowery says Wilkins, in an e-mail sent last week, offered to turn over his Beale Street records, which the mayor pro tem interpreted as a resignation. But Wilkins fired back, saying he wasn't resigning.

Either way, Lowery fired Wilkins Tuesday over what Lowery says are excessive legal fees paid by city taxpayers.

"Legal bills like this are simply outrageous," he said, adding that he's tightening the city's financial belt, starting with the legal department. "At some point you have to draw the line, which is what I'm doing with the termination of Mr. Wilkins immediately."

Wilkins owns a private firm, which the Herenton administration contracted to sue Beale Street operators Performa Entertainment over claims of uncollected funds.

"In this case, this one attorney has made more than $2 million over the last three years," said Lowery, adding that accusations that he has a relationship with Performa are "hogwash."

Tuesday, his administration released the Supplier Payment History Report for the Law Office of Ricky E. Wilkins. Lowery says Wilkins received a flat rate of $35,000 a month.

"In other months, those fees went up $45,000, $55,000, $60,000, plus expenses," he said.

The report shows payments from January 2007 to August 31, 2009, with one invoice as high as $162,201.30.

Wilkins responded to Lowery's news conference and specifically addressed that hefty bill, saying his law firm "never received more than $35,000 a month."

He said the remainder of the money went to experts - not to his firm.

Wilkins said Lowery's numbers are dishonest and designed to mislead the public.

Meanwhile, the mayor pro tem is calling for the city attorney to release the names of all consultants and legal counsel who hold contracts with the city.

"This city is going to operate as a business," he said.

Lowery also says the Beale Street lawsuit won't suffer a hitch. He's putting Memphis Deputy City Attorney Mike Fletcher on that case.

Wilkins will hold a 2:00 p.m. news conference Wednesday to respond to Lowery and the City Council.

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