Four city contractors terminated after internal investigation

By Kontji Anthony - bio | email

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - A total of four city contractors have been terminated after an internal investigation of the city's General Services Division.

Eyebrows raised in February after Memphis Mayor AC Wharton called for an investigation of Fleet Services, a branch of the city's General Service Division.

The City Attorney's Office learned payments to contractor Around Town Tire and Trucking quadrupled in six years before Wharton came into office.  Payment to the tire repair company began under $300,000 in 2004 and skyrocketed to $1.1 million by 2009.

Wharton fired then Fleet Administrator Estrice Boone.  The questionable expenses a more in-depth investigation of Around Town Tire and Trucking.

The city attorney's report showed concerns centered not only on Around Town, but three other vendors: Bass Annie, All-Parts and Union Auto Parts.

The city's master mechanic, Arthur Adams, stepped in as the city's Fleet Administrator, after Mayor Wharton fired Boone.  Adams was charged with driving drunk in a city vehicle two days after the City Attorney's Office questioned him about a city invoice, created by Arthur Adams, showing work on a 2001 Chevrolet Impala.

The invoice on that same purchase from Union Auto Parts showed Adams signed for the city to pay $201.65 on part number 15-80205.  A buyer's guide showed that part is for a Cadillac, not a Chevy.

In the city's investigation, Adams admitted he owned a Cadillac Escalade.

Under questioning, Adams told the city he ordered three 42-inch flat screen televisions through All Parts, but All Parts is only supposed to sell auto parts to the city.

Upon further questioning, Adams told the city he could not find the invoices for the televisions.  He admitted he billed them as a hydraulic tool to circumvent procedures.

With regards to Around Town, the city's investigation found Fleet Services Supervisor Andrew Phillips allowed the tire repair company to double-bill the City.  On several occasions, they charged the city for installing tires twice.

Vehicle Support Service Manager Annette Clay said she hand-delivered checks to Around Town.  Though she denied any compensation, she said Around Town contributed to certain charities she supported.

Clay also said the city paid Bass Annie more than $37,000 to dry documents damaged during a flood, which was outside the scope of their contract.  The city then paid another vendor $9,000 to complete the job.

In the end, the city found the four vendors falsified invoices to "make purchases outside the scope of contracts."

Services were terminated with all four companies.  All employees under question have either retired or been relieved with pay.  Internal or criminal action may be taken against them.

Mayor Wharton has commissioned an outside consultant to conduct a 90-day overhaul of the entire division.

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