No conspiracy! That was the bottom line of Memphis City Council Chairman Berlin Boyd’s media conference called on Friday in regard to a Nov. 6 ballot error that blocks former Mayor Dr. Willie W. Herenton from running for mayor in 2019.
Herenton and others have suggested there was a conspiracy and perhaps fraud.
The controversy surrounds a proposed ordinance that would extend the number of consecutive terms a mayor or council member can serve from two to three. The language of the proposed ordinance, passed by the City Council in January, stipulated that it was to apply to officials who took office after Dec. 31, 2011, Boyd said.
That would not have applied to Herenton, who announced his 2019 mayoral intentions in April 2018 and served four terms from 1992 to 2009.
Boyd said the Dec. 31, 2011 date was omitted from the proposed ordinance by mistake after he signed it.
“Any suggestion that the city council’s January action was orchestrated by or to obstruct former Mayor Herenton’s then unknown political aspiration is purely fictitious,” Boyd said. “I personally discussed this matter with Dr. Herenton yesterday and appreciated the opportunity to explain the situation was unintentional.
“Although the language with the date was omitted from the cover sheet of the ordinance when transmitted to the Shelby County Election Commission, the subsequent pages of the transmission included the language clarifying that the ordinance applied to office holders from 2012 onward,” Boyd said.
“There is no hidden conspiracy. …As I said to him directly, there was no attempt to block him or any other potential candidate from seeking any office. I assured him and I am sure he understands that by now.”
City Council attorney Allan Wade earlier this week said he made the mistake while drafting the proposed ordinance.
Wade said he met with Herenton and explained that if the ordinance passes there is a remedy through the courts. According to Wade, if Herenton files a petition in court seeking to be exempted from the ordinance (if it passes), he (Wade) would not oppose it.
Herenton has said he is skeptical of the fact that public officials with long experience drafting legislation could make such a mistake.
Boyd called the media conference after he had appeared on “The Thaddeus Matthews Show” and word began to spread that he had said someone had fraudulently changed the language in the proposed ordinance. Herenton’s attorney, Robert Spence, was among those who had the statements attributed to Boyd.
Spence told The New Tri-State Defender that he has formed an organization called The Committee Against Referendum Ordinance #5676 so that Herenton can have legal standing, if he has to fight the referendum in court.
Spence said the committee will also be working to defeat the referendum at the polls.
Boyd said he never told Matthews that someone had committed a fraud on him. Matthews had not returned telephone calls by TSD press time.