Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Versus Mode: Halbert vs. Lowery

Posted By on Tue, Mar 17, 2015 at 12:46 PM

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Fights at Memphis City Hall are usually group efforts, factions taking sides of one issue or another.

But sometimes — sometimes — two individuals step from the scrum and face each other in single combat.

Versus Mode is an occasional series dedicated to just such battles.

Such occasion arose Tuesday at Memphis City Hall.  

Planning an airplane-and-overnight trip for a group of adults can be tough. That’s apparently very true for members of the Memphis City Council.

Travel plans for council member Wanda Halbert were at the center of a discussion at Memphis City Hall Tuesday. Council chairman Myron Lowery tried to organize the trip with Halbert and council member Janis Fullilove.

In a series of emails, Halbert wanted to pay for the trip one way. Lowery suggested doing it another way. The whole thing got heated and tangled quickly. Halbert suggested she’d have a look at Lowery's travel expenses. Lowery suggested he’d have a look at her city travel expenses going back to 2012.


If you don’t want to dig through the emails, here’s, basically, how it went down:

• Halbert told Lowery she wanted to go to two conferences this year: the National League of Cities (NLC) conference in Washington, D.C. and a juvenile justice program in Houston.

• Lowery said she could only attend one. Halbert chose the NLC.

• Lowery suggested putting baggage fees and other expenses on personal credit cards to save the council some cash. Halbert and Fullilove told him they did not have a credit card. They would reimburse him once they got got their reimbursement checks from the city.

• Halbert asked for the reimbursement check before the trip and then a copy of her itinerary for the trip. In a response email, city council employee Pam Cain copied Lowery on Halbert’s request. That’s where it got heated (spelling and punctuation are by the original authors):

Halbert: Why is Myron copied?

Cain:
Because he is my boss and wants me to keep him in the loop on things.

Halbert:
I don’t have a boss. When I ask for all-council travel information I can see him getting a copy but if it is mine, please don’t do that!! Otherwise, please provide all legal authorities for same!!

Lowery:
Ms. Halbert: As chairman, I will get a copy of anything that concerns this Council. Your travel records are city documents and can be open to anyone in public, including any member of this Council. Thanks. Take Care. ML

Halbert:
I am not asking for council records, I am only asking for a copy of MY expense reports and not sure why you would get an email every time council ask for a copy of THEIR information. Let me do this, cancel the copy request please!! I will await my itinerary on Tuesday. Thank you.

Lowery:
Ms Halbert: While you have cancelled your request with Pam, and I am renewing this request with our CAO and Finance Director to see your travel records for the period of 2012, 2013, and 2014. City travel records are public records. Take care, ML

Halbert:
Mr Chair: Please feel free to get as many copies as you like. I only asked for a copy for record keeping purposes. Didn’t know that it came with all of this control/oversight. Have a blessed weekend!!!! WH

 

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