By Appointment Only: The Mayor Responds - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Reported by Andrew Douglas

By Appointment Only: The Mayor Responds

Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton

After an Action News 5 report earlier this month, Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton has responded to our inquiries about the appointment of his former bodyguards to high level, highly paid city jobs.

Herenton handed out such jobs to a handful of people in his inner circle - three in particular - whose resumes don't support their current salaries.  For instance, Michael Gray, a former Herenton bodyguard who is now the Deputy Director over the Memphis Public Library.  Gray, who has no library experience, makes $107,000 per year. 

Tony Elion is another former Herenton bodyguard, now making nearly $106,000 as Public Works Deputy Director. 

Finally, Yalanda McFadgon, the former head of Herenton's security detail - and a convicted felon - who makes $106,000 as the Deputy Director of Public Services and Neighborhoods.

Action News 5 tried for months to get Mayor Herenton to tell us why he chose those people for these positions.  Herenton is not required to get approval for the positions - if he wants to give his former bodyguards six-figure salaries, he can - for now.

One day after a special report about the mayor's appointments aired earlier this month, members of the Memphis City Council voiced their frustration.

"We've had a lot of requests from just the general public to say that they'd like to see more oversight," said Memphis City Council member Barbara Swearengen Ware.

With voters demanding to have a say in the matter, Mayor Herenton finally decided to speak up.

"All those individuals that I've appointed, I obviously have the greatest confidence in their abilities to get the job done," Herenton said.

Even so, on July 15th, the Memphis City Council passed a first reading of a resolution that would give voters the opportunity to amend the city charter to require the "approval of Deputy Directors by the City Council."

"Some of the people that are a part of government seem to be confused about roles," Herenton said.

"I believe the council has crossed the line."

Herenton maintained his position that the Memphis mayor be allowed to make appointments.

"The mayor - whomever that person is - should have the authority to appoint without substantial review at certain levels on a part of council members," he said.

Council members must approve two more readings of the resolution before it goes to voters in November.  If it passes on the ballot, Herenton warned, he will campaign against it.

The next reading of the resolution is scheduled for August 5th.

"We will be articulating to the voters that we don't think that this is in the best interest of whomever the mayor is," Herenton said.

For now, the city's best interests are in the hands of highly-paid leaders, who may not be fit for the job.

For this story, Action News 5 repeatedly tried to talk with the Deputy Directors appointed by Mayor Herenton.  Each time, we were told to go through the Mayor's office, and each time, his office refused our requests.

Click here to send an email to Andrew Douglas.

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