Memphis Mayor A C Wharton vehemently denies he decided to cut back on the funding for the police department's Blue Crush operations.
He insists millions of dollars earmarked for police services have been sitting unused since the end of the 2012 budget battle.
Some are already envisioning their sniping as a prequel to a future mayoral race. But while that potential confrontation might be years down the road right now Councilman Jim Strickland and Mr. Wharton remain at odds over the thorny matter of whose telling the real truth about funding the city's most effective crime initiative.
MORE: Council defends Armstrong over Blue Crush, blames mayor
They may have been in the same room attending a Kiwanis Club luncheon, but it's obvious both Wharton and Councilman Strickland still aren't on the same page when it comes to remembering the history of who knew what and did what about funding Blue Crush. It seems like only yesterday, because it was Tuesday, Strickland charged Wharton had crippled Crush operations by his decision to withhold millions from the data-driven initiative and misleading council members about actual funding.
"Why did Mayor Wharton dismantle Blue Crush?," Strickland asked. "Why did Mayor Wharton tell the council and the public Blue Crush was operating in the same manner it had when it wasn't operating in the same manner?"
"That's not true," Mayor Wharton said. "He's entitled to his opinion. That's not accurate."
Strickland is suggesting the mayor, the council and Police Director Toney Armstrong hold a joint meeting to discuss the whole Blue Crush funding issue.
On Wednesday after his speech to the Kiwanis, Wharton gave a vigorous defense of his position by insisting although there is no budget item specifically labeled "Blue Crush," the money to run the expensive operation has been there all along.
Wharton cited the money lies in the $12 million set aside for police operations in 2012.
"Listen, I'm telling you right now there's $5 million there. Right now. With no restrictions on it," the mayor of Memphis said. "We tried to get it right in the middle with the understanding that if they needed more then we'd go back to the council and we had that understanding with the council as it turns out the money is still right there begging to be spent."
Councilman Strickland acknowledges Mayor Wharton's assertion the money is there now. Yet, he still maintains documentation shows that it wasn't always there.
"The police asked for $243 million budget or $248 (million), I've forgotten," Strickland said. "About $8 million was cut by the Wharton administration, including the $2.3. million dollars for Blue Crush overtime."
So, it's a "he said, he said" standoff. The only thing the two men could agree on, the Kiwanis sure know how to throw a good spread.
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