Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton told the City Council this week he would not do a national search for a new Memphis Light, Gas and Water president until "some major charter issues have been resolved." But don't worry, the confrontation ended in a hug.
After a request from City Council member Carol Chumney for an update on the search for a candidate to replace former MLGW president Herman Morris, Herenton told a meeting of the personnel, intergovernmental, and annexation committee that the council had breached aspects of the city charter, and until that was resolved, he would not be nominating a new candidate for the MLGW presidency.
"Until we get an interpretation of the charter," said Herenton, "I don't think it's in the mayor's best interest to move forward." He later said he wanted a "competent judge to say who is correct."
Herenton and the City Council have battled over several issues since the beginning of the year, including whether or not the council has to approve interim appointees to city positions. In January the council approved a resolution that those temporary appointees could only be paid for 45 days. The mayor vetoed the resolution.
Chumney said she was concerned that it could take six months to do a national search, once that search finally started. Council member Brent Taylor told the mayor he didn't understand what the interpretation of the charter had to do with searching for a new MLGW president.
The conversation sparked the latest round in finger pointing. Herenton asked committee chair Tom Marshall to keep order in the meeting if they wanted his presence there. Marshall told the mayor he was the one acting out of order and that they were not going to have a slugfest in that committee.
After other council members weighed in, Edmund Ford told the mayor he had been a good mayor for the last 12 years and he needed to be a good mayor for the next four. "Everybody in this room is equal," he said.
Before the mayor left, he asked if he could give Ford a hug. They embraced and the mayor left, saying, "I'm not saying I'm going to hug anybody else."
Some council members responded, "Likewise."
The mayor also proposed adding two positions to MLGW's five-person board of directors: one from the suburban areas and one from the union perspective.