Herenton defends high-level appointments - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Reported by Andrew Douglas

Herenton defends high-level appointments

Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton fired back Tuesday after an Action News 5 investigation into his high-level appointments - deputy directors earning six-figure salaries with resumes that may not support their positions.

Herenton was not happy about our investigation.

"I don't know who's responsible for hiring TV individuals, but I'm sure they don't have somebody going behind them saying that you hired somebody else that didn't have this experience," he said.

For the record, jobs at Action News Five aren't paid by taxpayers, but deputy directors are. Three appointed this year were once bodyguards or part of the mayor's security detail.

"Anybody that works with the mayor is not a bodyguard, they are executive security," Herenton said. "There's an array of skills and knowledges that they must possess in order to be in those positions."

One of Herenton's appointees, Michael Gray, makes more than $107,000 per year as Deputy Director of the Memphis Library, yet has no library experience, and no library science degree.

"Michael Gray has been to fraud document school, been to all kinds of technology school," Herenton said.
 
He's a former deputy director, too, over Public Services and Neighborhoods, a position he held for 19 months.

"(He) graduated from LeMoyne Summa Cum Laude, graduated from the University of Memphis Summa Cum Laude," Herenton said. "Do you know that?"   
 
But that might not be completely accurate. We obtained his resume through the city of Memphis, which shows Gray graduated from LeMoyne-Owen Cum Laude, and earned an associate science degree from Shelby State Community College Cum Laude.  His Masters of Liberal Arts at the University of Memphis did not list honors, and once again, he has zero library experience.

City records show Tony Elion made just over $59,000 last year as part of the "mayor's detail." He's now making more than $106,000, as Deputy Director over Solid Waste.

"Tony Elion is one of the finest public work executives we've ever had because he 's task oriented," Herenton said. "He works all the time."
   
Yalanda McFadgon, former head of the mayor's security detail, did prison time in 1999 for concealing $70,000 in drug money, but has changed her life around.  She was applauded for her role as Executive Director of the Second Chance program., a placement service for ex-felons. Now she's Deputy Director over Public Services and Neighborhoods, a job Michael Gray used to have. She's making nearly $106,000.

The mayor still insists he should appoint his staff, regardless of the six-figure salary.

"I mean where does it stop? The city council ought to decide next they want to appoint the mayor's secretary?" he asked.

The City council has passed a resolution that would require council oversight of all deputy director appointees.  If it passes a third reading next month, voters could make council oversight required for the six-figure salary jobs.

By the way - we've asked for weeks to talk with the deputy directors, and each time the mayor's office has declined.


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