Thursday, March 1, 2007

Herenton Declines Lee’s Resignation; Cites "Array of Evil"

Posted By on Thu, Mar 1, 2007 at 4:00 AM

In publicly rejecting MLGW president Joseph Lee’s resignation Thursday, Mayor Herenton declared, “I will not, cannot in good conscience participate in a media, political witch hunt that is currently operating in the city of Memphis around the leadership of this utility company.”

“Let me also say that I cannot approve any initiative that has the support of the Commercial Appeal, Carol Chumney, and Myron Lowery.”

He referred to the troika as “an array of evil.”

After rejecting the resignation, Herenton encouraged Lee to focus on regular folk, and their mistrust of the utility’s meter reading and billing.

“This is one disturbing issue, that I have been overwhelmed by criticism and concerns in the community. I’m asking Mr. Lee, help me and the citizens understand to help me and the citizens of Memphis to understand the spiraling increase … that leads many to believe that the billings are excessive and arbitrary,” Herenton said.

In the wake of the latest round of scandal, Herenton announced his solution. “Next week I will be requesting from the Memphis City Council an allocation of funds to provide assistance to needy citizens, many of whom are on fixed incomes,” he explained.

The mayor used the language of the VIP scandal to shift focus to MLGW’s service of financially needy customers. “Those are the people who deserve special treatment and financial assistance,” he said.

“I will be asking the City Council to support my request for $5 million... to assist us, in helping us to help the people who need it most.”

Though Herenton offered his respect and support to Lee, he seemed to distance himself from Lee’s ethics with an unusual gesture. Herenton read aloud a letter he sent Lee upon the latter’s appointment to the MLGW presidency in 2004.

In it, Herenton warned Lee about the new “friends and supporters,” he’d acquire, who would seek to “benefit from your position.

“You will be faced with denying requests of self-serving elected officials,” Herenton prophesized. “You have entered a political and social world that will test who you are as a man.”

After finishing the letter, Herenton addressed Lee directly, saying, “Mr. Lee, you’re a good man, and you’re still in my prayers.”

Lee returned to the usual Thursday business of MLGW board meetings. The board passed a resolution “approving an instruction to staff to remove names of elected or appointed officials, or VIPs from MLGW’s Third Party Notification List that were set up outside the normal process.”

Another resolution approved “requesting that elected and appointed officials within the City of Memphis and MLGW acknowledge that their personal and business utility bills…payment histories, delinquencies, and cutoffs are public records….”

— Preston Lauterbach

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