Mayor puts freeze on travel reimbursements for judge - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Mayor A C Wharton puts freeze on travel reimbursements for judge

Judge Earnestine Hunt Dorse Judge Earnestine Hunt Dorse

(WMC-TV) - Memphis Mayor A C Wharton is temporarily freezing travel for a Memphis Judge in response to an Action News 5 investigation into thousands of dollars spent on luxury travel.

The judge at the center of this controversy is Memphis city administrative judge Earnestine Hunt Dorse.

While she's not the only city judge who submits travel receipts, she is the one who spent more than 71-percent of the travel expenses, and the city C-A-O signed off on it.

Judge Earnestine Hunt-Dorse sent you the bill for her travel to the Caribbean, stay at the Ritz Carlton, rental cars, and valet parking.

Now those days of luxury travel at taxpayer expense may be over.

"It's not acceptable," Wharton said.

Mayor A C Wharton saw my investigation and is now conducting one of his own.

"In fact, Chief Administrative Officer George Little has met with Judge Hunt Dorse, and we won't be receiving any more travel requests until a thorough review of the policy is conducted," Wharton said.

Earlier, Action News 5 asked CAO Little why he signed off on Dorse's travel expenses, without question.

Little said he, in the executive branch, didn't have authority over the judicial branch.

"I would have to have a good reason, at least other than my own values, at least under the current policies and procedures, to disapprove of that travel," he said.

Mayor A C Wharton says that doesn't have to be the case.

"We always in our system of government one branch is not supposed to intrude on the other when it comes to their judicial functions. But travel is not a judicial function. So we do have control over that."

"This would be the same as if someone came in and said they wanted a mink sofa, with ebony wood. We'd say no, you don't need a mink sofa, a good old hide or whatever will do."

Mayor Wharton says his office will investigate thoroughly.

"We're freezing everything until we do a through review of the policies, if they need tightening up, we'll do that, if we need law changes, which I don't think we'll need, we'll do that. We'll get it reigned in so there will be full accountability."

Judge Dorse says her travel benefits the city because while at conferences she helps bring conferences to Memphis.

She also gets her required Continuing Legal Education Credits at the conferences. Credits which can also be acquired online, and within the state.

Mayor Wharton made it clear he is not singling out Judge Dorse, the travel policy he's reviewing is the same for all city officials.

You asked us just how often Judge Dorse is off the bench and who covers for her when she's gone.

We'll have the answers tomorrow on Action News 5 at 10.

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