Councilman Smiley files ethics complaint, calls for investigation of Ford after comments

City Council debate turns heated

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Memphis City Councilman J.B. Smiley, Jr. has filed an ethics complaint and is calling for an ethics committee to be appointed to investigate fellow councilman Edmund Ford, Sr.

It comes after comments Ford made during virtual meetings on Tuesday.

In one of those meetings, Ford became upset after Councilman Martavius Jones invoked his son’s name during a debate.

Jones, who made a bid for council chairman on Tuesday night, was explaining why the person who holds the vice-chair position shouldn’t always become chairman. Ford suggested it was tradition.

“Because if it was, Mr. Ford, (then) Edmund Ford, Jr. would have been the council chair in 2017,” said Jones.

Ford became visibly upset by Jones’ comment.

After the council elected Frank Colvett, Jr. as the chairman over Jones, Ford responded to Jones’ earlier comment.

“Councilman Jones, you shouldn’t have went there,” said Ford. “Don’t ever go there again with me and my family. My son or anyone else. You did it once before. You did it. Do not go there anymore.”

Jones and Ford began speaking over one another.

Ford then used a phrase some find offensive and homophobic.

“You got b***hole problems, don’t ya?” Ford said to Jones.

Some council members were visibly shocked by the comment.

As City Council Chairwoman Patrice Robinson tried to restore order, calling for the microphones to be turned off, Ford let out another comment.

“My mic is off but he’s a little short **s man,” Ford said about Jones.

WMC Action News 5 spoke with Jones on Wednesday.

“He didn’t embarrass me. He embarrassed himself,” said Jones.

Jones says while he didn’t take personal offense to Ford’s comments, others may have.

“He offended the constituents that voted for him,” said Jones.

Smiley is now calling for Robinson to appoint an ethics committee to investigate Ford for using profanity and personal insults with a colleague, which he says violated the council’s ethical code.

Smiley filed an ethics complaint on Wednesday.

“I have witnessed a pattern of verbally abusive behavior toward the administration and our very own colleagues. Enough is enough. I am asking you and the rest of this body to put an end to this blatant disrespect and dishonor for individuals and the offices we hold,” Smiley wrote in a letter to Robinson.

Smiley also mentioned an incident earlier on Tuesday in which Ford berated Memphis Public Works Director Robert Knecht over city funding for the upkeep of cemeteries in his district.

Memphis Chief Operating Officer Doug McGowen told Ford that Knecht had not been briefed on the issue and apologized for the misunderstanding.

In addition to an ethics investigation, Smiley also wants the council to approve a resolution amending rules to ban council members from making “personal, impertinent, slanderous or profane remarks” about other members, other city officials, staff or members of the public.

“More important than the titles we have or the letters behind our names is the basic decency we have as human beings. With that being said, there are certain behaviors that we cannot and should not allow to continue,” said Smiley.

Ford has not returned messages seeking comment.

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