Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Lowery Says Wilkins Out, Jefferson "Sick"

Posted By on Tue, Sep 8, 2009 at 2:57 PM

Mayor Myron Lowery has ended an agreement that paid lawyer Ricky Wilkins more than $2 million in three years.

Meanwhile, another Herenton loyalist, city attorney Elbert Jefferson, is hanging by a thread as he called in sick Tuesday, avoiding a scheduled meeting with Lowery.

Lowery made the announcements at a press conference in City Hall Tuesday afternoon. He said that Wilkins, whose firm represented the city in Beale Street litigation, made at least $35,000 a month under a contract signed by former Mayor Willie Herenton. Wilkins will be replaced by attorney Michael Fletcher and assistant city attorney Veronica Coleman-Davis, but Lowery said he fears the city has already spent more on legal fees than it will recover in the Beale Street lawsuit which has dragged on for years.

"Legal bills like this are outrageous," Lowery said.

Jefferson can't be fired without a vote of the Memphis City Council. Lowery apparently has the votes to do that, but he would not discuss Jefferson until he meets with him.

Jefferson first offered his resignation to Herenton, who declined to accept it. Then Lowery unsuccessfully tried to fire him. Lowery wants to know if Jefferson approved payment for any other employee's legal fees, and if so, who and how much.

In a similar vein, there is some disagreement over whether Wilkins resigned or not. Lowery says he did, Wilkins says he didn't. Either way, he is off the payroll.

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