Memphis City Council may study Beale Street settlement

By Kontji Anthony - bio | email

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - The Memphis City Council is waiting for an answer from Mayor A C Wharton about the settlement deal he signed with the group that ran Beale Street for decades.  And, some council members want to spend up to $15,000 dollars to study the deal.

Tuesday, Memphis City Council chairman Harold Collins said some of his peers approached him about the Beale Street settlement, so he is voicing their concerns.

"I have requested approval from the mayor to authorize the council to contract with an independent reviewer for up to $15,000 to focus on the scope of the settlement, and nothing more," Collins said.

Earlier this month, Action News 5 showed you the settlement in question. In it, Performa Entertainment agrees to turn over its Beale Street lease to the City of Memphis.  In exchange, part of the settlement allows Performa to give Beale businesses $420,000 dollars in rent credits.

That money would then be used to pay for Performa's legal bill in its decade-long legal battle with the city.  The city has claimed Performa skimmed millions from taxpayers, but Performa claims the city actually owes them.

"For years we've been told there was no revenue from Beale Street, but to use rent credits, that has to be revenue," Collins said.

While some Council members argue taxpayers shouldn't have to pay up to $15,000 to investigate a deal that's already done, others believe it's worth the trade-off if it prevents city taxpayers from footing Performa's legal bill.

"The city of Memphis would not be losing revenue in the form of rent credits to the tune of $420,000," Collins said.

Collins believes it's strictly about checks and balances, pointing out that while the Council decides where taxpayer money goes, the mayor's office is in charge of handing out that money.

"What it says is we want to have an independent review to make sure the Council's authority is not being usurped," Collins said.

Some argue the settlement may have saved money, because no end was in sight to the Performa lawsuit.  Collins hopes Wharton gives him an answer this week so the Council can choose a firm and complete the inquiry by the end of July.

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