MLGW board votes to reimburse Lee - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Reported by Kontji Anthony

MLGW board votes to reimburse Lee

Joseph Lee Joseph Lee

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - The MLGW board of directors voted Thursday to reimburse former MLGW president Joseph Lee for attorney expenses he incurred while under federal indictment on bribery and extortion charges.

Lee was accused of giving former Memphis City Councilman Edmund Ford a pass on his utility bills in exchange for political favors. In June, federal prosecutors dropped their charges against Lee.

At a meeting Thursday, it took the MLGW board about a half hour to decide what to do with Lee's legal fees. On the advice of their attorney, the board voted to pay Lee $489,000, but turned down Lee's other two requests: In addition to his legal bill, Lee wanted health insurance benefits at the higher rate of a retiree, and a $78,000 severance.

The board turned down those requests because Lee is not old enough to receive a retiree rate, and because he resigned, he is not eligible for a severance.

The vote came after MLGW president Jerry Collins told the board Lee incurred his legal fees as a direct result of his job.

"That indictment was dropped," Collins said. "He was found not guilty of any crime, and it's not unheard of - certainly in city government - for city government to pay for legal expenses of an employee who has legal difficulties in the course of his duties."

Lee's attorney, Robert Spence, said another government job could be in store for his client.  Mayor Willie Herenton, Spence said, has alway said he would hire Lee back.

"I think the mayor is a man of his word," He said. "If he said he was going to look at it, I think he certainly will, and I think Joseph is very interested in public service, and so I believe at some point in time in the future the mayor and Mr. Lee will sit down and have a discussion and that discussion may lead to a job."

Before Thursday's vote, Lee voluntarily dropped his lawsuit to recoup this money from MLGW. But the money isn't in the bank yet - the city council has to vote on this also.  If they agree to pay the legal fees, Spence said, he'll drop all legal issues against MLGW.

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