Wednesday, May 28, 2003

TOM JONES PLEADS GUILTY TO EMBEZZLEMENT--TWICE

Sentencing of the former mayoral aide set for August 28th.

Posted By on Wed, May 28, 2003 at 4:00 AM

Former Shelby County mayoral aide Tom Jones pleaded guilty Wednesday in federal court to embezzlement. He subsequently made another guilty plea to similar charges in state court. Jones, head of public affairs for Shelby County under three mayors in four decades, waived his right to indictment and pleaded guilty to information submitted by federal prosecutor Tim Discenza. U.S. Magistrate Judge Daniel Breen accepted the plea in a hearing that lasted about 25 minutes. The single count to which Jones admitted guilt states that from 1999 to 2002 Jones embezzled at least $5000 each year in federal funds. Shelby County gets federal funds, and that is why the case was in federal court. The amount of money that Jones used for personal instead of county expenses is in dispute. The federal government contends it is over $100,000, while Jones and his attorneys, Kemper Durand and Al Harvey, say it is less than that. Sentencing was set for August 28th. Jones was released on his recognizance with no conditions or travel restrictions. Discenza said the government would recommend a sentence at the lower end of the federal sentencing guidelines. He said that could include imprisonment and supervised release, but he did not indicate how long the sentence might be. Discenza said the government was prepared to show that Jones used funds channeled through the Memphis Regional Chamber of Commerce for personal use while submitting payment requests that indicated they were for business travel or other county expenses. Credit card receipts show that Jones bought CDs, diet products, gifts, and a honeymoon trip for his daughter with a county credit card. The story broke nearly a year ago in the final weeks of the administration of Mayor Jim Rout. In addition to being head of public affairs, Jones was a top special assistant to the mayor and served on several boards. Rout suspended Jones in the final week of his term. Jones pleaded guilty to one count of theft of property between $10,000 and $60,000 and official misconduct following an investigation by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation in coordination with the FBI. Jones made his guilty plea in state court after he pleaded guilty to the related charge in federal court. Jones will be sentenced in state court after he is sentenced in federal court.

Tuesday, May 13, 2003

GOP BACKS FLINN, LOOKS FONDLY AT BUNKER

GOP BACKS FLINN, LOOKS FONDLY AT BUNKER

Posted By on Tue, May 13, 2003 at 4:00 AM

Shelby County Republicans on Tuesday night formally hitched their train to the 5th District city council hopes of George Flinn, the radiologist/broadcast mogul who ran unsuccessfully for county mayor last year. The GOP steerng committee, which gave its unanimous nod to Flinn at a meeting at the home of activist Annabel Woodall, is likely also to endorse county school board member Wyatt Bunker for the District 1 council race against longtime incumbent E.C. Jones. "We think Jones is vulnerable, and we think Bunker has good support against him," said party chairman Kemp Conrad, who noted that Cordova resident Bunker, arguably the county board's most conservative member, had filed his petition for the seat this week. The party will withhold any official action on the race pending formal interviews of the sort held last week with District 5 candidates, but Bunker'e entry was acively sought by the party's candidate-recruitment committee and thus is almost certain to be endorsed. Bunker is a resident of Countrywood, a portion of Cordova annexed by the city of Memphis since he was last elected to the county school board. His position as a current Shelby County office-holder (who could not, however, run for relection to the board next year) running for a citywide office stamps him as unique. Flinn, a novice candidate last year, won the Republican nomination for Shelby County mayor with a well-financed and-- said his critics-- abrasive media campaign against then State Representative Larry Scroggs. Resultant party division was one factor in Flinn’s lopsided loss in the general election to Democratic nominee A C Wharton. “I think he intends to run a different type of campaign this year,” said GOP party chair Kemp Conrad of Flinn's bid for the District 5 seat being vacated by two-term councilman John Vergos. After formally receiving the party endorsement Tuesday night, Flinn said, "I feel like I won the primary tongiht , and I very much look forward to the election campaign and working with Kemp Conrad the Republican Party." Aboaut his well-funded but ultimately unsuccessful political experience last year, Flinn joked, "I'm older, wiser, and poorer. This will be a grass-roots campaign." Flinn, who later confided that out-of-state consultants may have done him a disservice in last year's race promised that he would work only with local consultants this year and would keep his expenditures more or less in line with what is customary for a city council race. Conrad said the party would act quickly on other races. Upon taking office this year he promised that the local GOP would endorse candidates for selected seats and aggressively promote their candidacies. In the morrow of Monday night’s Democratic meeting [see separate story], he could not resist this dig at the rival party’s highly public difficulties: “It’s uinfortunate that the Democrats seem to be more consumed in power struggles and personal agendas than they are in the lives of Shelby Countians.” Among other hopefuls so far acknowledged as seeking the District 5 seat are Jim Strickland, Mary Wilder, Jay Gatlin, and John Pellicciotti. Pellicciotti, Gatlin, and Strickland, like Flinn, had preliminary interviews last week with the GOP candidate-recruitment committee, but each had handicaps to overcome in gaining the endorsement of the full Republican committee. Gatlin's was that he is a relative unknown; Strickland’s was that he served a term as chairman of the Shelby County Democrats; Pellicciotti’s was, ironically enough, that he ran a tight race against Democratic state representative Mike Kernell last year and is counted to do so again next year. Several leading Republicans have said they would prefer that Pellicciotti keep his powder dry until then. Another race which the Republicans may endorse in, said Conrad, is the race for the Super-District 9, Position 1 council seat now held by long-term incumbent Pat VanderSchaaf. Numerous candidates -- Repoublican, Democratic, and independent -- are expected to try their luck in that one.
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