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Conflict of interest concerns mount for Edmund Ford Jr.

by James Coleman — 

Shelby County Commissioner Edmund Ford Jr. is responding on multiple fronts to an ethics probe into a transaction his company allegedly conducted with the recipient of a Shelby County Board of Commissioner grant.

Ford is accused of pitching his company, E&J Computers, as a vendor for Junior Achievement of Memphis and the Mid-South in the lead up to its receiving a $450,000 grant award from the commission. Ford claims he recused himself by leaving the room during the vote.

The matter is currently under investigation by the District Attorney General’s Office for the 17th Judicial District. Shelby County District Atty. Amy Weirich has recused herself because her office receives funding from the County Commission.

The probe follows a report to Shelby County Attorney Marlinee Iverson that asserted Ford violated the county’s code of conduct. It recommended prosecution. A county ethics commission meeting slated for Tuesday (March 23) was postponed. The commission will wait for the special counsel’s findings before further action is taken.

Ford responded through his attorney, Allan Wade, who accused Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris of using the power of his office to attack political opponents. Ford has also formed a political defense fund. 

Harris’ office responded in a written statement:

“Mayor Harris has never had any conversations nor has he met with the special counsel hired to investigate an alleged quid pro quo against Commissioner Ford. Furthermore, Mayor Harris was not involved in any way in the decision to hire the special counsel. These are only allegations and everyone, including Mr. Ford, is entitled to the presumption of innocence.

“The Mayor plans to stay mission-focused on the work ahead, which includes advancing a series of ethical reforms that were already in the works, but that now seem even more urgent.” 

Ford reportedly is weighing a defamation suit against the special counsel and two local news organizations.


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