Three members of the Shelby County Ethics Commission held a status conference Tuesday afternoon to discuss an ethics case against Commissioner Sidney Chism.
County officials say it's the first time the retired judges and lawyers on the ethics board have taken a case this far.
"If you've got a claim we want to give you a hearing on it, so what we want is specifics," said Judge James Allen, Shelby County Ethics Commission.
Fellow Commissioner Terry Roland alleges Commissioner Chism broke the county ethics code. The County attorney brought in an outside attorney to prosecute this case.
"I made the complaint," Commissioner Roland said. "I carried it to the county attorney's office. The county attorney is the one that found merit with my complaint and therefore the county is the one that has to prosecute this case, not me."
"You have a sitting commissioner who voted on a contract," said Brian Faughnan, special assistant county attorney. "That contract named the sitting commissioner's daycare center that he owned and provided for monies to flow to that daycare center, the only private entity getting money under that contact."
READ THE STATEMENT OF CHARGES AGAINST COMMISSIONER CHISM: http://content.foxtvmedia.com/whbq/commissionerchismcharges.PDF
Chism's wife runs Horn Lake Daycare and the commissioner is listed as an owner of the business. The county says Chism is getting a financial benefit from government contracts issued by Shelby County.
Commissioner Chism was represented by his attorney, Ricky Wilkins.
The statement of the charges from the county argues that Chism voted on several resolutions that approved grant funds that, in part, went toward his family's daycare center. It was money that pays for Head Start early education programs.
"Commissioner Chism is the one that's been accused of having committed a violation, and it's the county that is pursuing it," Wilkins said. "So all we're asking the county to do is to provide us with all the documents all the information that's relevant to these charges."
The county attorney said Commissioner Chism did not disclose his interest in the daycare center before he voted to approve the money.
Commissioner Chism didn't speak at Tuesday's meeting and hasn't formally responded to the county's charges. Chism's attorney said his client hasn't done anything wrong.
"He has voted on matters that effect Head (Start) that have come before the county commission, but he has not voted on any matter that violates any ethical code of the county or any other ethical code," Wilkins said.
The lawyers on both sides will be gathering evidence over the next few weeks. No decisions were made Tuesday and it looks like this case could drag out for some time. There's another hearing scheduled for Aug. 20.
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