Linebarger Deal Scrutinized 

City attorney defends tax-collection firm to skeptical council members

A Texas law firm and its Memphis associates were paid $5.8 million to collect back taxes for the city of Memphis for two years.

The Dallas-based firm, Linebarger Goggan Blair & Sampson, got the no-bid contract from Mayor Willie Herenton in 2004. Prior to that, the city attorney's office had been doing the job on a budget of $150,000. Shelby County Trustee Bob Patterson has said his office could collect back taxes for both the city and county for much less money than the city is spending.

City Attorney Sara Hall, appearing before a City Council subcommittee Tuesday, defended the Linebarger deal.

"Yes I do, absolutely," she said when asked if approved of it. She said Linebarger has hired six lawyers in Memphis, including a former employee of the city attorney's office and the county trustee's office who specialized in delinquent tax collections.

Hall would not say how much money has been paid to individual Memphis lawyers who work with Linebarger. She said the only public disclosure required is the amounts paid to Linebarger, which is under contract through 2007. Some city council members apparently believe Herenton cronies are reaping a windfall.

Hall said, however, that Linebarger collected $26.5 million in delinquent taxes during its first year. The baseline number used by the city was $20.6 million a year, the amount collected by the city attorney's office in 2003-2004. Linebarger's fee was $4.6 million, but the firm refunded $1.5 million to the city due to the discovery of what Hall characterized as a system failure in the City Treasurer's Office. Prior to that, the city was ready to terminate the deal, Hall said. Last year Linebarger's fee was $2.7 million.

But Hall said that after paying the adjusted fee, the city is getting more back taxes than it was before. She estimated the net gain after court costs at $1.5 million a year. Asked by council members Jack Sammons and Dedrick Brittenum about having Patterson do the job, she said the county tends to concentrate on properties outside the city limits of Memphis and then "flip" or resell the property after collecting the county taxes. She said the city is more careful about working with poor people in the inner city and trying to get delinquent property into the hands of someone who will take care of it.

"The county is beating the city to the punch," said Brittenum.  

Hall said delinquent tax collections typically decline after the first two years when an outside firm takes over because owners realize they have to pay up or

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

Blogs

Tiger Blue

#18 Tigers 66, SMU 45

Film/TV/Etc. Blog

Indie Memphis' Greatest Hits 5:

News Blog

Q & A With MCA President Laura Hine

Politics Beat Blog

Cohen, 5 House Colleagues Launch Impeachment Effort Against Trump

Music Blog

Band Geeks: A Live Tribute to The Last Waltz

Politics Beat Blog

Democrat Dean, On Nashville-Memphis Back-and-Forth: "I Love I-40!"

Beyond the Arc

The Hustle Report: Week 2

Fly On The Wall Blog

Memphis College of Art in the 1960's-70's

ADVERTISEMENT

More by John Branston

  • Pyramid History 101

    Bass Pro should acknowledge the big pointy building’s backstory.
    • May 14, 2015
  • Let it Be

    What to do about the Fairgrounds? How about nothing?
    • Jan 29, 2015
  • Let’s Go, Shelby County Schools!

    Some suggestions for how the new Shelby County Schools system can hold its own in the years to come.
    • Aug 14, 2014
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • Filling the Space

    For all the in-fighting, we’re all looking for the same thing, and sometimes we can realize it.
    • Jul 14, 2016
  • Democratic Discontent in Philadelphia

    After WikiLeaks revelations of DNC efforts favoring Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders moves to tame the tempest.
    • Jul 26, 2016
  • Wellspring Politics in Memphis

    With a crucial deadline approaching next week, the local “Protect the Aquifier” movement picks up steam.
    • Nov 24, 2016
ADVERTISEMENT
© 1996-2017

Contemporary Media
460 Tennessee Street, 2nd Floor | Memphis, TN 38103
Visit our other sites: Memphis Magazine | Memphis Parent | Inside Memphis Business
Powered by Foundation