Friday, December 1, 2006

Memphis Attorney Wanted Billboards at Center of Scandal

Posted on Fri, Dec 1, 2006 at 4:00 AM

The real estate at the center of the City Council corruption scandal is located north of Interstate 240 near Perkins in the Quince planning district. The applicant who was rebuffed by the Land Use Control Board was attorney William H. Thomas, according to public records.

City Council members Rickey Peete and Edmund Ford are accused of bribery in a federal criminal complaint made public Thursday. An affidavit states that Peete took $12,000 and Ford $6,900 from a lobbyist working undercover for the FBI. That person has been identified (and the Flyer has confirmed through its own sources) as well-known political figure Joe Cooper.

Documents show that Thomas applied to develop the four-acre Steve Road Planned Development near the interstate with mini-storage facilities and two billboards. His planning firm was Fisher & Arnold. The Land Use Control Board and the planning staff of the Office of Planning and Development recommended rejection of the proposal as “incompatible with surrounding land use.”

Thomas then took his plan to the Memphis City Council. On October 3rd, the council voted 9-2 to approve it and overturn a billboard moratorium. The no votes were cast by Scott McCormick and Carol Chumney.

According to the affidavit, payments were made to Peete on September 12th, September 20th, and October 4th. Payments were made to Ford on August 30th, October 2nd, and October 27th. Attempts to reach Thomas Friday were unsuccessful.

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