Herenton shares thoughts in editorial as public responds to story - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Reported by Lori Brown

Herenton shares thoughts in editorial as public responds to story

Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - In an editorial submitted to Wednesday's edition of the Commercial Appeal, Mayor Herenton says quote, "There are no written laws in the codes that state it is unlawful for the city mayor to own a business or to invest private capital in a private venture."

Click here to read the editorial.

Herenton was responding to a Tuesday report in the newspaper that said while he was using his public office to push for the redevelopment of the downtown Greyhound bus station, he was secretly making a deal that in the end earned him more than $90,000.

In the editorial the mayor goes on to say, "I never allow my personal interests to conflict with my role as mayor."

Wednesday, Memphis City Council Chair Myron Lowery said he wants to be sure.  Lowery sent an email to the city and city council attorneys to ask how the council should handle the potential misconduct.

"One, is to see if our ethics policy has been violated," Lowery said. "Two, to look at in light of the oath of office that every official takes when they're sworn into their duties."

University of Memphis Law Professor and Shelby County Commissioner Steve Mulroy agreed to speak in general terms for this story about how the law works when it comes to public officials making private real estate deals.

"The conflict of interest would generally be where the office holder had a personal financial, or monetary interest in the official action he or she was taking," Mulroy said.

Mulroy added there are ways to do business deals while holding public office, but you have to be careful.

"Are you wearing your official hat or your unofficial hat, and that can become a legal issue," he said. "The lines can sometimes be blurry."

Community Response

Mayor Herenton's supporters have been with him through thick and thin, so Action News 5 went outside City Hall Wednesday see how they're dealing with the latest allegations that he crossed ethical and possibly legal lines on a real estate deal.

Kimberly Turner says she's been a long-time Herenton supporter, but the latest allegations are too much.

"He should have told the truth from the beginning," she said. "Now all this stuff coming out about him, if it was legit, it would have been a public auction."

The Commercial Appeal reported Tuesday that while 'Herenton the Mayor' pushed for the redevelopment of the downtown Greyhound bus station, 'Herenton the Businessman' privately held the option to buy the land. Eventually, the newspaper reported, the mayor made more than $90,000 on the deal. 

Herenton said he didn't cross the line between what's public and what's private.  Turner isn't so sure.

"He's combining both of them, because if it's his public role, it should have been portrayed as his business role too," she said, "instead of trying to gain off both ends."

Melby Brantley of south Memphis, on the other hand, says Herenton is being unfairly targeted.
"It seems to be that he's always being badgered," he said.

Brantley believes the Mayor when he says he's done nothing wrong.

"I'm sure he's made bad decisions too, but I think he's done good since he's been in office," he said.

Others aren't sure just what to think yet.

"I believe people in politics have a right to invest and earn money for their personal benefit, but I do think they have to be extremely careful in doing that," one person said.

Click here to send an email to Lori Brown.

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