Less than 24 hours after her camp made known the results of a poll favorable to her cause, District 5 city council candidate Carol Chumney has drawn some less favorable attention on the body she hopes to join. The reason? A conversation of hers with U.S. Attorney Terry Harris that at least one key council member has construed as undue pressure.
There was only one way for me to interpret it, as pressure to try to influence my decision on our redistricting plan, said city council chairman Brent Taylor about his own conversation Monday with Chumney. On that day, said Taylor, Chumney called him and apprised him of rumors that the council might draw her residence out of the Midtown/East Memphis district which she wishes to serve on the council.
According to Taylor, Chumney cautioned him that she had contacted Harris to advise him of her concerns.
Theres only one reason to talk to the U.S. attorney, and thats if she thinks theres illegal activity, or the prospect of it happening, said Taylor. Its like shes warning us to watch out what kind of plan we approve. Or else.
Under the direction of its lawyer, Allen Wade, the council is in the final stages of drawing final district lines to comply with a standing federal court order dating from 1995 Ð when the council of that time and plaintiffs charging racial discrimination agreed on the general outlines of a settlement.
Taylor said he advised Chumney to visit the council offices on Tuesday to reassure herself that the lines under consideration were fair. She did so (as did at least one rival in the District 5 race, lawyer Jim Strickland) and, when reached for comment Wednesday, professed herself satisfied.
All I really wanted to do was find out what neighborhoods were included in the district, so Id know where to campaign, said Chumney, who represents a large portion of District 5 in the state House of Representatives. But when pressed she acknowledged her conversation with Harris. Asked point-blank if shed raised the issue of her possible exclusion from the district with Harris, Rep. Chumney said, I cant remember.
Although Wade will make sure that the final lines conform with judicial mandates, the council has latitude in approving variations, noted Taylor, who said his feeling that Chumney was attempting to influence the councils decision was strengthened by a conversation with Wade. According to Taylor, Wade said he regarded Chumneys intercession as inappropriate. (Wade could not be reached for comment Wednesday night.)
Chumney alleged that, besides the rumors that she was in danger of being cut out of the district, there were other rumors that opponent George Flinn was being targeted for exclusion as well.
"But I don't take any of those rumors seriously," she said Wednesday. Taylor remembers things differently. "She sure sounded dead serious on Monday," he said.
Chumney said that, while she didn't believe it would happen, it wouldn't matter if she did end up being excluded by the final district lines. "I want to serve this district so bad that I'd just move my residence if I had to," she avowed.