Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Herman Morris Kept MLGW Closed to Public Scrutiny

Posted By on Tue, Oct 20, 2009 at 4:47 PM

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The Memphis City Council should ask Herman Morris Jr. what he thinks of open government before confirming him as city attorney.

A C Wharton wants Morris to be the city attorney, replacing Elbert Jefferson. When Morris ran MLGW, the place was an island fortress, as hostile to the notebooks and cameras of the media as any agency in town. Sham public meetings. Severance packages for Morris and other top executives. The Herman Morris bobblehead doll. The confused reaction to Hurricane Elvis. Memphis Networx. The place needed fresh air. Willie Herenton got that one right.

Herenton kept Morris around for two terms. They fell out over a big bond deal. Herenton thought local firms and black attorneys should get more of the business. Then Herenton went and, after an initial rejection by the council, installed his own puppet, Joseph Lee.

Wharton says he believes in open government. So the council should ask Morris why MLGW did business by having a closed executive committee meeting to do the real work and a quickie public meeting after lunch to go through the motions. The city attorney can open or close (or hide) important public documents. Interim mayor Myron Lowery and Jack Sammons opened the doors.

Morris seems more comfortable with privacy than publicity, which is fine for someone who doesn't run for mayor or keep coming back to public jobs. Maybe he has changed his ways. But the council should pin him down. Why does he want to be city attorney? Does he believe public records should be open to the public and easily accessible? What are his views on labor contracts? He has a record, not just a nice resume.

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