City leader under investigation had previous lawsuit dismissed - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

City leader under investigation had previous lawsuit dismissed

Wharton addresses media Monday morning (Source: WMC Action News 5) Wharton addresses media Monday morning (Source: WMC Action News 5)
Picture of Lipscomb hanging in city hall (Source: WMC Action News 5) Picture of Lipscomb hanging in city hall (Source: WMC Action News 5)

Memphis Mayor A C Wharton called a news conference to answer questions about the investigation into accusations of sex crimes said to have been committed by a Memphis leader.

Housing and Community Development Director Robert Lipscomb is now off the job as investigators look into what happened between him and a then 16-year-old boy.

Though Lipscomb resigned from his City of Memphis position, his attorney said his resignation has nothing to do with the allegations and maintains that his client is innocent. Attorney Ricky Wilkins said the allegations of sexual misconduct with a minor could possibly be dirty politics.

"He categorically denies having an improper relationship with anybody," said Wilkins. "The timing of these allegations are very curious to us."

Mayor Wharton and MPD Director Toney Armstrong talked with the victim over the phone last week.

"Police Director Armstrong and I spoke with the 26-year-old man who alleged he had a sexual relationship with Lipscomb, when he, the complainant, was 16 years old," Wharton said.

After talking to the victim on the phone, Wharton sent Armstrong and two of his top investigators to Seattle, Washington, to interview the victim.

"I would do the same thing on absolutely anybody. Had it been a street sweeper, and someone come in, I don't care if the alleged perpetrator was in Alaska or whatever--these things are serious, and when you get them, you jump on them. I don't care if it's midnight--all this stuff about where the complainant is doesn't amount to a hill of beans. This is serious stuff, in terms of the allegations. Are they true? I don't know," Wharton said. "When you get an allegation like this, you take it seriously."

Mayor Wharton said Shelby County District Attorney's Office is looking into the possibility that Lipscomb offered the victim money to stay quiet about what happened.

Lipscomb made $124,637 per year as City of Memphis' Housing and Community Development Director before being put on administrative leave Sunday. He is also making $135,959 as Memphis' Housing Authority Director, which is paid by United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

Wharton said putting Lipscomb on administrative leave would not hinder any of the projects he is currently working on.

"Those projects will keep going without missing a beat," Wharton said. "These are business transactions and they will go on."

Memphis City Councilwoman Wanda Halbert said she is in shock.

"We all know Director Lipscomb. He's a man of character and a man of integrity," Halbert said. "I have not seen anything like this from Director Lipscomb."

A source close to the investigation provided a document, which shows Robert Lipscomb wired money on several occasions. The source told Kontji Anthony that the victim provided this as proof that Lipscomb was sending him money.

The 26-year-old victim said he was homeless when his relationship with Lipscomb started. He said it lasted five years, but he broke off the relationship because Lipscomb "kept making promises of a job and a place to stay and he didn't come through."

When asked why he waited until now to come forward, the victim responded, "I can break a man in half" by doing it. He added, "He took my manhood and made [him] an angry teenager."

The victim also said he has been through anger management and wants justice.

In addition, WMC Action News 5 learned this is not the first time Lipscomb has been at the center of an investigation.  

In March 2006, a lawsuit was filed against Lipscomb alleging that in 2002, while working as Memphis Housing Authority Executive Director, Lipscomb sexually harassed an employee by subjecting him to unwanted advances. The victim in the lawsuit said he was treated "extremely different" because he rejected Lipscomb's advances.

Herenton confirmed that he turned that claim over to the human resources and legal departments, but he did not want to comment further on Lipscomb.

That lawsuit was eventually dismissed.

To read Lipscomb's redacted personnel file click here.

Copyright 2015 WMC Action News 5. All rights reserved.

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