Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Feds Indict ex-Commissioner Bruce Thompson

Posted By on Tue, Nov 13, 2007 at 4:00 AM

Former Shelby County commissioner Bruce Thompson was indicted Tuesday by a federal grand jury on four charges connected to his work as a consultant to a Jackson, Tennessee construction company.

The indictment was announced at a press conference by United States Attorney David Kustoff and FBI Special Agent in Charge My Harrison.

“What can I say? What can I possibly say?” said Harrison. “Same game, different name.”

Harrison warned that public officials who think they are “entitled” to more than their salary are on the FBI’s watch list.

“Whether you’re north, south, east, or west we’re watching,” she said.

The investigation of school construction contracts is ongoing, Kustoff said. A grand jury has been hearing testimony about campaign contributions and other matters. According to the indictment, Thompson did not actually have the power to influence votes on the Memphis school board but “falsely represented” to H&M Construction and its joint-venture partner Salton-Fox Construction that he could help them win a contract to build three city schools. The commission appropriates money to fund schools in Shelby County, including the Memphis City School system.

The indictment says Thompson, 48, received $263,992 from H&M in two payments in 2005 after the school board awarded the firm the contract, reversing a previous vote that gave the contract to another firm. The indictment says that Thompson “did cause to be placed a check in the amount of $7,000 addressed to Kirby Salton from H&M Construction in the custody of an interstate common carrier” on November 16, 2004. That is the technical description of a mail-fraud charge.

Both the wording of the indictment and Kustoff’s remarks, however, left it unclear whether the $7,000 was passed on to board members and exactly what Thompson was supposed to do for his $263,992, which is nearly nine times the annual salary of a county commissioner. “Thompson would falsely represent to representatives of the joint venture that by reason of his position as a Shelby County commissioner he had the ability to control the votes of members of the Memphis City School Board in connection with the awarding of a contract to construct three schools,” the indictment says.

Thompson, a white Republican from East Memphis, was a commissioner from 2002-2006 when he decided not to seek another term. His name came up in the Tennessee Waltz investigation when FBI agents posing as executives of E-Cycle Management said they wanted to meet him. The first Tennessee Waltz indictments were made public in May of 2005, putting public officials on notice to be careful about their business dealings, especially with regard to consulting. Thompson’s contacts with H&M regarding the three school construction jobs began in 2004, according to the indictment. Thompson initial court appearance is scheduled for Wednesday.

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