Action News 5 Investigates: By Appointment Only - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Reported by Andrew Douglas

Action News 5 Investigates: By Appointment Only

Last month, Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton said he wanted the power to appoint a city school board and superintendent.  In fact, the mayor of Memphis is already able to appoint many highly paid top level leaders over various city departments.

The mayor's appointments have no oversight or approval process.  In fact, if the mayor wants his former bodyguards to be highly paid deputy directors, they get the job - no questions asked.

For some positions, it's not that easy.  Director appointments require the approval of the Memphis City Council, and now, even one of those appointments is under scrutiny: The Mayor picked Keenon McCloy to take over the Memphis Public Library from longtime and nationally known library director Judy Drescher.

Drescher is a highly decorated librarian, while McCloy does not have a degree.  Sallie Johnson, who was second in command under Drescher, has never spoken publicly - until now - about the departure of her former boss.

"It just made no sense," she said in a recent interview.

Johnson believes Drescher was forced out to make way for McCloy's appointment.  Drescher resigned unexpectedly just two weeks before the Memphis Public Library received top honors at The White House.

"She was the picture of the library through all of these wonderful things the library system had done," Johnson said. 

Drescher's resignation letter said nothing about being forced out, instead stating an "intent to retire."  But library associations criticized Herenton for replacing her with "non-librarian leaders."  In fact, one group called Drescher's dismissal a "slap in the face."

When asked about the controversy, McCloy wasn't happy her qualifications were being questioned.

"I do actually have extensive experience," she said. "I was a Director of Public Services and Neighborhoods for a number of years, and as a part of that, I worked with the Memphis Public Library and Information Center."

"I think it's sad that the director of the library and the deputy director of the library are not librarians," Johnson said.   

That deputy is Michael Gray, one of Mayor Herenton's former bodyguards, now making more than $100,000.  Gray is second in command, reporting to McCloy.  It was enough to move some Memphis City Council members, like Edmund Ford, Jr., to want a change in the city's charter.

"The deputy director is such an important position that we should also have the latitude to approve or disapprove," Ford said.

Ford and other council members want voters to be able to change the city charter to allow more oversight in the appointment process.

"We simply are responding to some of the public outcry as far as some of the appointed positions are concerned," he said.  

Reached for comment, Mayor Herenton would not address the issue for this story.

The city's Chief Administrative Officer, Keith McGee, said deputy directors are considered staff positions, and that the mayor should be able to appoint his own staff.  Council members will address the need for more oversight at a meeting Tuesday.

City of Memphis Deputy Directors:

  • Alvin D. Benson - Director Fire Deputy - $111,850.18
  • Janice Currin Pilot - Director Police Services Deputy - $111,849.92
  • James E. Stokes - Director Finance Deputy - $110,250.14
  • Michael A. Gray - Director Library Deputy - $107,302.26
  • Rebecca S. Kissinger - Director General Services Deputy - $106,479.10
  • Janet Hooks - Director Community Enhancement Deputy - $105,942.16
  • Beverly A. Goines - Director Hcd Deputy - $105,942.46
  • Yalanda L. McFadgon - Director Public Services Deputy - $105,942.46
  • Herman R. Adair - Director Maintenance Deputy - $105,942.46
  • Tony J. Elion - Director Solid Waste Deputy - $105,942.46
  • Gary G. Ludwig - Chief Fire EMS Deputy - $105,647.88
  • Michael P. Putt - Chief Special Operations Deputy - $105,647.88
  • Sheila Whalum - Director Finance Deputy - $104,822.38
  • Lasonya H. Hall - Director Executive Deputy - $104,822.38
  • Larry R. Smith, Sr. - Director Parks Operations Deputy - $99,750.04

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