City and county governments haven't adopted ethics reform

One year after the Tennessee Waltz Corruption scandal, one lawmaker is in jail, others are awaiting trial and there is a stricter state ethics law.

But there's nothing in place to stop corruption in Memphis and Shelby County.

Several of the suburban communities were quick to adopt ethics policies, but the same can't be said for the area's two largest governments.

In the six months since new ethics policy became state law, nothing has changed on the books in Memphis and Shelby County.

"People expect it and it's not that much to ask," said former state Attorney General Mike Cody.

Cody co-chaired the state ethics panel. He says local ethics law is overdue.

In January, Commercial Appeal columnist Wendi Thomas tried to get local leaders to sign off on a short ethics promise. Few complied.

County Commission Chairman Tom Moss says the controversy over District 29 and the kickoff of the campaign season were distractions. And, he says, the next chairman, Joe Ford, wants to wait.

"He's requested that we hold the item until after the new commissioners take their seat because several of them ran on ethics issues," said Tom Moss, of the Shelby County Commission.

Meanwhile, in Memphis, City Councilman Tom Marshall, who spear-headed the push for an ethics policy in 1999 says the city's budget crisis has been top priority, but that ethics hearings will begin within the next two weeks to craft policy.

"I will say that we have received the state law," said Marshall. "We have three lawyers looking at it now and as we get to our ethics ordinance, I think the public's going to be very pleased with what we come out with very soon."

The policy that's on the books, he says, is no longer tough enough.

So, that means the Council will begin tackling ethics a week from Tuesday. And the County Commission will wait until September when the new commissioners take their seats.