Thursday, February 17, 2011

County Commissioner Chris Thomas Objects to MCS Public-Information Plan on Referendum

Posted By on Thu, Feb 17, 2011 at 4:25 PM

Chris Thomas
  • Chris Thomas
Shelby County Commissioner Chris Thomas, one of four consistent opponents on the commission to the prospective merger of Memphis City Schools with Shelby County Schools, has asked the Shelby County District Attorney General’s office to rule on the propriety of MCS’ decision “to spend tax dollars on an alleged marketing campaign concerning the MCS Charter surrender referendum.”

In a letter to Bill Bright, a lawyer on the staff of D.A. Amy Weirich, Thomas cites the fact that the MCS Board has employed Trust Marketing to publicize the facts involved in the citywide March 8 referendum, which will decide whether the MCS-SCS merger can go forward. Beverly Robertson, a partner in the PR firm, made a presentation on Trust’s intent “to break it all the way down” at the Board’s Monday night work session.

“Simply put,” asked Thomas, “can our tax dollars legally be used to fund this kind of campaigning? If not, what can be done to stop this?”

The District 4 commissioner may or may not have known when he wrote his letter that a county commission majority, at a special commission meeting Wednesday morning, had voted in favor of chairman Sidney Chism sounding out MCS about sharing the services of Robertson and Trust Marketing. By a 7-to-1 margin (another District 4 commissioner, Terry Roland, being the lone holdout), the commission voted to reserve the body’s contingency fund for the purpose.

On the ground that “they’ve got the votes,” Thomas did not attend the Thursday morning meeting, which was called primarily to amend the number —from 27 to 25 — of prospective interim members the commission intends to name to an interim all-county school board. Like Roland and two other commissioners, Wyatt Bunker of District 4 and Heidi Shafer of District 1, Thomas has opposed any and all aspects of the county commission’s involvement in preparing for a merger of the two school districts.

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