Herenton announces new city finance lineup

Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton has had to face the city council repeatedly during the past year to deliver bad budget news. Tuesday, the presentation was even more dire. Things are still bad - he says - but now, he says he doesn't know how bad things are.

"If you were to ask me if I had confidence in my current numbers, my answer to you would be no," Herenton said.

Herenton used that news as a springboard to announce a new finance lineup. A new job has been created for Robert Lipscomb: Chief Financial Officer. Lipscomb currently heads up two city housing agencies.

Roland McElrath, a former finance official here and at Memphis City Schools, becomes finance director. Council members were quick to point out they'd had problems with him when he last held the job.

"We had some experiences where quite honestly, the information took a long time, and was contradictory to what was on the table," said council member Janet Hooks.

The Mayor wants his new senior finance staff to come up with a clear picture of where the city is, a recovery plan, and a series of new ways to collect more dollars.

"In terms of the getting accurate data, forecasting and determining if we have additional problems, I don't want to hazard a guess, but I think it's going to take Robert Lipscomb a good thirty days to wrap his arms around the situation," Herenton said.