Lee files lawsuit over legal fees - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Reported by Kontji Anthony

Lee files lawsuit over legal fees

Joseph Lee Joseph Lee

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - Former MLGW head Joseph Lee filed a lawsuit Tuesday against the city of Memphis and the Memphis City Council, after the Council recently refused to pay his legal bills surrounding a 2007 federal corruption indictment.

The lawsuit, filed in Chancery Court, asks for payment of over $400,000 in legal fees, as well as $5 million in compensatory and punitive damages.

The lawsuit says the city denied Lee's request to reimburse his legal fees because of his African American heritage.  It says the city has never refused to pay for outside counsel, let alone have the City Council vote on it.  The lawsuit also points out the council paid the Glanker-Brown law firm $200,00 to investigate Lee.

Attached to the lawsuit, is a 2006 letter from MLGW agreeing to pay his legal fees, along with the federal document dismissing his case.

The federal indictment against the former MLGW president claimed he ignored former council member Edmund Ford, Senior's hefty utility bill in exchange for council votes. The case was later dismissed without explanation.

The legal bills stemming from Lee's indictment have been a source of debate for months. In August, MLGW's board agreed to pay the fees. The measure was then forwarded to the Memphis City Council for approval. In an October vote, council members rejected MLGW's request that the city pay Lee's legal bills by a vote of 7 to 6.

In early December, the issue was brought to the table once again, and again failed by the same vote. At the time of the December vote, Memphis City Council Chairman Myron Lowery said, after consulting with other lawyers and judges, he would agree to a payment to Lee of $275,000.

"Quite frankly, I think he is deserved some money, just not the $426,000 that was recommended to the council," Lowery said in a December 3 interview.

City council members are required to approve payments of more than $25,000.

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