TN audit affirms Memphis legally removed Confederate monuments

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - A state organization determined City of Memphis did not break the law when it sold city parks to get rid of Confederate monuments.

Tennessee Comptroller's Office reviewed Memphis' December sale of Health Sciences Park and Memphis Park at the request of multiple Republican state lawmakers.

The city sold the parks to Memphis Greenspace Inc. for much less than market value. The sale was a coordinated movement to legally remove monuments of Confederate leaders Jefferson Davis and Nathan Bedford Forrest.

After buying the parks, Memphis Greenspace promptly removed the statues.

"I thought the report was very positive," Memphis Greenspace CEO Van Turner said.

The Comptroller's Office looked into if Memphis leaders properly notified the public of its meetings and agendas and if they had the right to sell the parks for only $1,000.

Comptroller agents determined that in both cases, Memphis leaders followed the letter of the law.

"The state audit reinforced what we have stated all along--the sale of the parks and statues was proper and legal," Memphis Chief Legal Officer Bruce McMullen said.

"Hopefully we will again resolve the lawsuit and transfer the statues to new owners and I think the Comptroller's report was a very positive step in that direction," Turner said.

However, Comptroller agents did determine that the city did not require Memphis Greenspace to submit an application designed to make sure groups purchasing property from the city had the financial stability to maintain the property. City of Memphis said it met directly with Memphis Greenspace to make sure the group could financially maintain the parks. City leaders also submitted evidence that it had met directly with multiple groups (instead of having them submit an application) in prior instances where the city sold property.

Memphis' Confederate monuments remain part of a lawsuit to determine if they remain public property under the Tennessee Heritage Protection Act or if Memphis Greenspace now owns them.

"The Comptroller's report was very limited in its scope, very limited in its investigation," Sons of Confederate Veterans member Lee Miller said. "It did not discuss anything criminal."

Miller said the report leaves a lot of unanswered questions and that he still wants to see the statues go back to their original locations.

"I'd like to see the statues returned and the Forrest family, of course, would like to see the statues returned to their positions at the parks," Miller said.

Turner said he hopes all parties can reach an agreement soon.

"Hopefully at a location where the statues can be viewed by those who want to view that history and learn about the history of the Civil War and all the people who participated in that war," Turner said.

City of Memphis released this statement about the report:

"The state audit reinforces what we have stated all along - the sale of the parks and statues was proper and legal."
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There is no word when that mediation between all parties will start.

The Comptroller's Office full review can be seen below:

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