Herenton stands by MLGW head Lee - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Herenton stands by MLGW head Lee

Action News Five asked Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton whether, in light of the newly revealed massive budget shortfall, he still has total confidence in Joseph Lee. He barely hesitated.

Herenton told us he is not worried about MLGW President Joseph Lee's ability to run the largest three-service public utility in the country.

"If you're asking me do I have confidence in Joseph Lee, I have unrelenting confidence in Joseph Lee," he said.

The support comes a day after Herenton's new finance team broke the bad news. The budget shortfall is twice as big as we all thought. Next year's budget is going to take a big hit.

"We didn't get good numbers," he said Tuesday.

Herenton laid the blame squarely on the shoulders of his former finance people.

Joseph Lee left the finance department and went to MLGW just as the first shortfalls were revealed.

Charles Williamson replaced him and kept the job for a year, until it became clear just how bad things were.

"There was a fundamental flaw of five point four million dollars, Councilwoman Chumney, that never entered our equation when presentation was made to us," Herenton told the City Council.

When asked Wednesday about Joseph Lee's ability to manage a multi-million dollar company, that does billion dollar bond deals, in light of the city's budget problems, the Mayor said MLGW's finances don't impact the city coffers. And anyway, he said, Lee isn't doing it alone.

"Joseph has on his team a very capable board of commissioners. It's not simply Joseph Lee the president," Herenton said.

The Mayor was very particular about one thing. He would not blame by name the people who he holds personally responsible for the budget situation. He only vaguely identified them all as the "former" finance team. His point, repeated day after day, is that his new team is going to fix the budget.

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