City Hall waits for next move in council member's indictment

Barbara Swearengen Ware
Barbara Swearengen Ware

By Nick Kenney - bio | email

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - Uncertainty swirled Thursday at Memphis City Hall as the public waited to find out if a city council member would be taken to 201 Poplar to face criminal charges.

Named in April 2009 indictments against a series of employees Shelby County clerk's office, Memphis city council member Barbara Swearengen Ware faces her own legal trouble.

In the 2009 indictments, clerks were accused of accepting money in return for favors, including allowing motorists to renew auto registrations without completing auto inspections.  In the indictments it was alleged that three clerks accepted $5 cash from Ware.

"I take no joy in sitting here discussing this with you guys," Council Chairman Harold Collins said Thursday.

Collins says the discussion is still hypothetical.  Thursday, The Shelby County District Attorney General's office declined to comment on or confirm that Ware has been indicted.

They say, by law, grand jury decisions are secret until after arrest.

Meanwhile, the Shelby County Criminal Court Clerk's office said it does not have an indictment on Ware, and if it did, such an indictment would not be public record right now.

Thursday, Ware remained hospitalized, but remained destined for booking at 201 Poplar.

"The warrant is active," said Shelby County Sheriff's Department spokesperson Chip Washington.  "The charge is official misconduct."

Official misconduct is a felony, and by law, any Memphis City Council member indicted on a felony charge is immediately suspended from active duty on the council.  The council member would also be relieved of all committee assignments, and denied access to council staff, resources, and materials throughout the entire course of the legal process.

"Until all the proceedings are over," Collins said. "(She) could not deliberate in any committees, could not participate, could not vote in any matter."

But Memphis Flyer political analyst Jackson Baker said an indictment would probably not hurt Ware's standing with her constituents.

"It probably won't in her district, no," he said.

Thursday, Baker said City Hall was waiting to see what would happen next.

"We're in conspiracy theory days. This fits into any conspiracy on either side of any issue," he said.

During the legal process, the council would operate with only 12 members - no fill-in or temporary representative.  Collins said Ware's constituents will still have representation because of the super district system.

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