Mayor Pro Tem Myron Lowery said today that City Atty. Elbert Jefferson may have made some illegal decisions as the city's chief legal officer and he's glad the FBI is investigating.
Lowery joined the morning show on WHBQ Fox-13 Memphis and answered five minutes of questions, mainly about his relationship with Jefferson.
Following the July 30 retirement of former Mayor Willie Herenton, Lowery weathered criticism during his first week as interim mayor for trying to fire Jefferson without first receiving City Council approval.
Jefferson, who had a few months earlier tried to resign but later changed his mind at Herenton's request, refused to quit when Lowery asked for his resignation.
But now that Jefferson has come under scrutiny for potentially authorizing city payment of Herenton's private legal bills, Lowery said his attempt to fire Jefferson was to protect the city.
"My only concern was the legal department," Lowery said of making personnel changes upon taking office. "Once again, (Jefferson) offered to resign. Why does he want to stay? Is he trying to protect something for the former mayor? These questions have to be asked and I'm grateful that the FBI is now investigating."
Lowery reiterated previous statements made about his amicable working relationship with Jefferson. But he added that those relations may sour if Jefferson continues to block his access to critical contracts.
"The picture that I wanted to paint is we are working together," Lowery said. "But at the same time he's giving me push back for releasing certain contracts. For example, we cannot find the contract for attorney Rickey Wilkins, who was paid $162,000 last month. If these contracts cannot be produced, then the arrangements currently going on may possibly be illegal."
The Fox interview also touched on another Herenton ally, attorney Charles Carpenter, who managed three of Herenton's campaigns for mayor. Carpenter, who is now running for Herenton's old seat, has recently said he intends to fire police director Larry Godwin if elected mayor.
When asked his plans, Lowery said he doesn't have any "changes on the table right now." Lowery then took some shots at Carpenter, saying he's trying to make a name for himself and reminding viewers that Carpenter is also on the city's payroll as a contract employee (he did legal work for the city).
"So, there may be some conflicts there as well for him," Lowery said.