Utility President Joseph Lee spent more than two hours answering sometimes aggressive questions from Memphis City Council members amid a new outside report critical of his role in the Political Power scandal. The Council's utility committee deferred action following his testimony and its chairman suggested members consider accepting Lee's resignation after all.More >>
Joseph Lee finally agreed to answer questions concerning whether Edmund Ford got special treatment.
Lee answered the questions but not before things got really comical and Lee got uncharacteristically angry.
MLG&W president Joseph Lee sat next to his attorney Robert Spence ready to answer the city council's questions.
"I want to make it clear Mr. Lee is here against the advice of his counsel. I have advised him while the federal investigation is going on he should not make any comments," said Spence.
Then Joseph Lee made a statement to council members.
"I have not received a promise a benefit, a gift from any council member including Edmund Ford at any time as it relates to any business whether it be personal. I want this to be abundantly clear. I worked hard to get to get where I am in my life. I have done nothing criminal. I haven't received anything from anybody for that matter," he said.
Council member Edmund Ford, whose utility bill is overdue and in question sat and listened to all of this.
The council wanted an attorney it had hired to do its independent investigation to ask Lee questions. But Robert Spence said that was improper. So attorney Saul Belz asked the question, then City Council member Tom Marshall asked it again. At least, that's how it began.
A usually calm and collected Lee showed his anger at times especially when council member E.C. Jones started questioning him about whether he showed favoritism.
"If you look at some of the accomplishments that we've achieved I think we've done a damn good job," said Lee.
"Excuse me we're not going to use profanity," interjected Chumney.
One question Lee would not answer on the advice of his attorney is whether he is a target of that federal investigation into whether Edmund Ford got special treatment from Lee.
Basically, Lee told council members Edmund Ford was treated differently but so are a lot of customers.
He said he tries to be compassionate.
Joseph Lee would not comment after he appeared before the council.
Despite what Joseph Lee did or did not say, may on the council still got their questions answered in a report, produced by those independent "investigators" and released today.
But it too comes with plenty of controversy.
Joseph Lee's testimony was icing on the cake.
The 37-page report, weeks in the making, was already complete.
Some say it's money well spent.
The report reveals that Councilman Edmund Ford might not have even known about the preferential treatment he received.
It's something he's been arguing all along. "You got a lot of people out there--all you got to do is ask them--they'll tell you--I've never asked anybody for anything," he said.
But the report comes down hard on MLGW President Joseph Lee, saying that he allowed, and in some instances, directed that special treatment be given to Ford.
"He cuts people off everyday and to wait so long before considering cutting Mr. Ford off points to a flaw in his judgement," said Council Chair Tom Marshall.
Some hope this report is the first step in getting the utility back on track.
"When these types of situations occur and the national media picks up on it--it hurts all of us," said Jack Sammons.
Others believe any investigating should have been left up to the FBI.
"The FBI is going to want to know why you investigating when they got an investigation--I don't understand that," said Councilman Joe Brown.
Brown believes the FBI's probe should have run its course before the council stepped in.
Others feel the council owed it to voters.
And as a results of what they heard today, some are calling for Joseph Lee's resignation again. Carol Chumney encouraged her colleagues to consider accepting his resignation when they meet again in two weeks.