Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Sale of Parks Under Comptroller Review

Posted By on Tue, Feb 6, 2018 at 11:57 AM

click to enlarge Minutes before Nathan Bedford Forrest's statue was removed from Health Sciences Park
  • Minutes before Nathan Bedford Forrest's statue was removed from Health Sciences Park
The transactions that allowed city leaders to remove Confederate monuments from two public parks are under investigation by the Tennessee Comptroller's office.

The Memphis City Council voted in December to sell two parks to a new nonprofit organization. This action allowed the nonprofit, Greenspace Inc., to remove three Confederate monuments from the parks.

Several lawmakers with the Tennessee General Assembly have introduced bills to stymie any further action from the city on the monuments. Lawmakers have also asked for a full review of the sale from the state Tennessee Comptroller’s Office of Open Records Counsel.

“The Comptroller's Office and the Office of Open Records Counsel have been asked by members of the Tennessee General Assembly to review the transactions involving the sale of the parks to ensure they comply with state and local laws,” said Lee Pope, the state’s open records counsel. “Compliance with Tennessee's open meetings laws are part of this review.”
Pope’s response came after a request from the Memphis Flyer to get an opinion on the Memphis City Council’s vote to sell the parks.

Though the matter had been dicussed publicly for weeks, the final vote was on a substitute ordinance brought to the council the night of the final vote. That new ordinance — the one that detailed plans to sell the parks to Greenspace — was not discussed before the meeting nor during it, though council members approved it unanimously.

Copies of the ordinance were not made available to the public before or after the vote, according to some attending the December 20 council meeting.

“These matters are still under review,” Pope said in an email. “It would be inappropriate for us to comment further until our review of the matter is complete. Once our review is complete, the Comptroller's Office will issue a public report which will include the Office of Open Records Counsel's conclusions.”

Pope did not say when the report will be published.

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