MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - On Wednesday Shelby County Commissioners put a much-publicized plan in motion, crafting a committee to crack down on county employees breaking residency rules. The proposal passed committee and is headed to the full council Monday.
It’s a controversy we’ve been telling you about for weeks, one that started amid claims the Shelby County director of Corrections has been living in Tipton County. The county charter specifies that Shelby County employees are supposed to live in Shelby County.
Commission Chair Mark Billingsley said he wants every commissioner to serve on the committee along with the county’s HR director and county attorney. The goal is to clarify what it means to be a county resident.
“It is insulting to me that the people that are violating the rule feel like we’re somehow treating them differently. The reality is yes. We are treating them differently because they’ve been given a pass for a really long time. And quite frankly the pass is over,” said Mark Billingsley, Shelby County Commission chairman.
Weeks of controversy over the county’s Director of Corrections, Anthony Alexander, led to this point.
Commissioners last month passed a vote of no confidence in Alexander, when presented with information by a private investigator, alleging he resides in Tipton County. Commissioners also said they’d heard job related complaints.
Alexander is 31-year county employee and makes more than $143,000 annually.
Marlinee Iverson, Shelby County attorney, wrote in a memo there’s no way to know whether Alexander is a resident of the county or not because the county hasn’t adopted a process to determine that.
“We’ve tossed it to the mayor for him to handle. I don’t know. It looks like he’s going to stand by his man,” said Commissioner Amber Mills.
Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris was in the commission chamber Wednesday, but he did not speak on the residency issue.
Harris appeared with faith coalition group MICAH to advocate for a county investment in public transit.
The mayor’s plan announced in September included a $9 million collection for a sustainability fee, a $145 charge for each additional vehicle above two, for homes and businesses in the county. However, commissioners have since indicated they will not support that plan in its current form.
MICAH conducted surveys and said their research shows the public would be willing to pay a fee per car to fund the investment.
“In our presentation, we saw a range between $20 to $50 that our members feel is a comfortable range they would be willing to contribute,” said Britney Thornton, with MICAH.
Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris left Wednesday’s meeting without talking to reporters. A spokesperson provided a statement regarding the discussion on public transit. WMC Action News 5 inquired for a statement on the residency issue but did not receive one.
“I am pleased that the County Commission has been consistently engaged on how the county can invest, support, and expand transit options in our community. As I presented to the County Commission, transit will help lift men and women out of poverty, a conditioned that has worsened in our county. We have more than 25,000 men and women who live in poverty today who did not live in poverty last year. Part of the issue is access to transportation and jobs. The holiday season is the ideal time to have this discussion. This is the season we are reminded that we are called to help those in need. I believe that means addressing our worsening poverty rate,” read the statement provided by Harris.