New questionable expenses send Memphis City General Services audit into full throttle

By Kontji Anthony - bio | email

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - It's strike three for the old Memphis City General Services Division.

The City of Memphis is conducting an internal investigation on more questionable expenses surfacing from the previous administration.

The city has spent close to one million taxpayer dollars over the last six years for an oil additive that was supposed to get better gas mileage for the city's fleet.

However, the city found no savings by using X-52 Lubricant.

"This kind of thing is really troubling when you hear about it," said Memphis City Councilman Kemp Conrad.  "Unfortunately, this is one of many circumstances in this division where there have been problems," he added.

Conrad was the first council member to voice concerns about General Services last year, when he asked why former Director Estrice Boone was driving a souped up city car with shimmery red paint, tinted windows and a Hemi emblem.

"It makes me furious, like I'm sure it makes every taxpaying person in the city of Memphis is furious," Conrad said of the custom ride, as well as the contract Boone approved for the special oil additive.

The initial contract to put X-52 Lubricant in city cars and trucks cost a penny less than $50,000, which would have required City Council approval.

The additive is supposed to increase mileage six to 30 percent, according to the website.

X-52 costs almost twice the price of regular oil, and Conrad says it makes no sense to pay that much with no savings.

"I spoke with Chief Little, the CAO and the legal department has been doing an investigation," explained Conrad.  "We also have an outside accounting firm doing an accounting audit as well," he added.

The city is also investigating why a contract Boone set up with "Around Town Tire and Trucking" to fix city tire flats ballooned to more than a million bucks per year.

"There will probably be more to come out as we continue to dig deeper, but we have to fix the problem and make sure it never happens again," Conrad continued.

Mayor AC Wharton fired Boone in Mid-January, just three months after Wharton's inauguration.

Boone always maintained he did nothing wrong.

Action News 5 sent a request for comment to X-52, but it was Palm Sunday and they sent no reply.    

Other government agencies, like the State of New Mexico, gave testimonials on X-52's website saying it brought them savings.

For now, Conrad said the council and administration have a real sense of urgency around rebuilding trust, faith, and confidence in city government.

"The council and the new administration have been making positive change and we'll continue," he said.

Conrad says if anyone was involved in any wrongdoing, they will be held accountable.

He said problems with General Services has prompted the city to begin audits in other divisions.

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