Council members react to Mayoral criticism over Joseph Lee

Mayor Herenton essentially said it was enough that Joseph Lee admitted he exercised bad judgement by allowing councilman Edmund Ford to slide on paying some $16,000 in back utility bills.

He then shifted the burden of blame off of the utility's president and on to the media and two city council members.

"I'm concerned about saying and doing what is right," said Councilman Myron Lowery late today.

It was Lowery who publicly called for the resignation of MLGW president Joseph Lee.

"I think Joseph Lee is a good and honest man I personally like him but he has admitted that he's given preferential treatment to an elected official," he said.

That wasn't enough for Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton who refused to accept Lee's resignation Thursday. Instead, the mayor accused Lowery and councilwoman Carol Chumney of participating in a political witch hunt which he classified as an array of evil.

"If there's any reign of evil it's the evil that has allowed three years of a person getting special treatment not getting their utility bill," said Chumney.

Roby Williams sat in on Thursday's meeting as a concerned customer.

"Well I'm happy the mayor refused to accept the resignation of Joseph Lee I think Mr. Lee is an honorable man," he said.

Williams wonders why the public's scrutiny hasn't zeroed in on councilman Edmund Ford and the city council on which he serves.

"If Mr. Ford wasn't on the city council I don't think he would be treated this way if the city council did not have oversight of MLGW this would not have happened," he said.

But the City Council doesn't have the power to put Edmund Ford out and only the mayor can force Joseph Lee to resign.

"I'm not fighting with the mayor. I'm fighting for the hundreds of thousands of citizens who want equal and fair treatment from Memphis Light Gas and Water," said Lowery.

The mayor commended city council member Tom Marshall for initiating an independent investigation into just how much Joseph Lee knew about Edmund Ford's unpaid utility bills.

Two outside attorneys will look into the matter. The Mayor hopes it will be a thorough and unbiased investigation.


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