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Wednesday, May 29, 2024

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An Open Letter to Memphis City Council Chairman Berlin Boyd

Bernal E. Smith II
Bernal E. Smith II Pubisher

“From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” – Luke 12:48. As chairman of the Memphis City Council and a duly elected official (District 7) you are entrusted with much responsibility and authority. There are high expectations of your decisions and involvements. It is incumbent upon you to reinforce and embolden the public’s trust and not damage it.

Sworn to represent the best interest of the citizens of your district and the city as a whole, it is imperative that you make decisions consistent with that oath and that you do not compromise your ability to do so.

Your decision to contract with the Beale Street Merchants Association absolutely compromises your ability to even weigh in on matters concerning Beale Street that might come before the Council. It disallows you from representing the interests of the constituents that elected you and all those you serve in the city of Memphis.

About two weeks ago, I was casually told that the Beale Street Merchants Association (BSMA) would be contracting with you to provide consulting in marketing and fundraising. My initial thought was that certainly this could not be true given all that has transpired – and is yet to transpire – with the City of Memphis and Beale Street. It had to be just another rumor in the ongoing drama of “As the Street (Beale) Turns.”

So, I asked around. No one I talked with, including a council member I just happened to run into, expressed any awareness of it. I pushed the notion to the side and focused elsewhere.

This week, sources confirmed that you actually have agreed to contract with BSMA. And, I have been made aware of City Council Attorney Allan Wade’s legal opinion. He wrote:

“Under the City’s Ethics ordinance Mr. Boyd is only required to disclose a personal interest that affects or that would lead a reasonable person to infer that it affects his vote on a measure. Recusal is not required, but is within the discretion of the officer voting on the measure. It was my understanding that Councilman Boyd intended to make the requisite disclosure and even recuse himself from the vote even though recusal was not required.

“Finally, it is my opinion, consistent with prior opinions by past City Attorneys, that Mr. Boyd does not have a personal interest as defined by the ordinance that would require disclosure or recusal. He does not have a financial, ownership or employment interest in the subject of a vote by the Council. Management of Beale Street and the City’s leasehold interest in the buildings, as distinguished from the actual right of way, on Beale Street is an administrative matter under the Mayor’s control. The Council is not involved in administrative matters.

“The Council is involved in granting franchises and licenses to third parties to use the rights of way and has only been involved to insure that adequate security is provided to protect the citizens who visit the street on Saturday nights. There is no conflict in any council member using his or her vote to protect the health and safety of citizens. Councilman Boyd has no financial interest in the vendors hired by Downtown Memphis Commission to fulfill this objective.”

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