City Council members Rickey Peete and Edmund Ford were charged with bribery in a federal criminal complaint Thursday.
In a separate complaint, former Shelby County Commission candidate Joe Cooper was charged with helping drug dealers acquire cars.
A complaint is not an indictment but is an alternative way for the government to proceed in a criminal case. An indictment could come later following presentation of the complaint to a grand jury.
The complaint filed by an FBI agent came as a surprise and was handled with secrecy to prevent Peete and Ford from learning about it. Peete was at a party on Beale Street Wednesday night in preparation for Thursday's charity boxing match between Mayor Willie Herenton and Joe Frazier.
Peete and Ford allegedly sold their influence to help a developer win approval for a planned development and a billboard near Interstate 240. A confidential informant who is facing indictment cooperated with the FBI and taped both Ford and Peete. Peete allegedly got $12,000 while Ford got $6,900.
The payments occurred in September and October. Ford allegedly got his payment at his funeral home while Peete got his at his office on Beale Street, where he is head of the Beale Street Merchants Association. The affidavit says both councilmen were wary of being busted. The informant put Peete's "papers" in the bathroom of his office after Peete allegedly wrote a note inquiring about possible cooperation with the FBI.
The planned development, which was not identified, passed the council 9-2 in October over the objections of the Land Use Control Board and Office of Planning and Development.