Infighting within Shelby County Commission - FOX13 News, WHBQ FOX 13

Infighting within Shelby County Commission

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    Friday, October 4 2013 3:43 PM EDT2013-10-04 19:43:45 GMT
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Monday afternoon the Shelby County Commission appointed Shante Avant to the vacant District 6 Shelby County Schools Board of Education post, formerly held by Reginald Porter, Jr.

Porter is now the county schools chief of staff.

Avant, who is a mother, received eight votes and was appointed to the open seat until the next election. She is the Deputy Director of the Women's Foundation of Greater Memphis. Her first meeting on the board of education is Tuesday.

But Monday's commissioners' meeting was tumultuous as personal attacks flew between the commissioners with accusations of racism and sexism.

There was also opposition to the new Commissioner Chairman James Harvey' slate of committee appointments. A group of Democrats took issue with appointing a fiscal conservative to the budget committee.

"I want to bring this to the record that Commissioner (Sidney) Chism just voted for his cousin and didn't disclose it," said Commissioner Terry Roland.

Commissioner Roland accused fellow Commissioner Chism of voting for his cousin Roslyn Nichols for the vacant District 6 county school board seat.

It's not the first time Commissioner Chism has been the target of Commissioner Roland's ethics accusations. He had enough making his own accusations.

"Everything that he does up here he's gone after every black person on this board in some way or another," Commissioner Chism said.

Then Roland went on to accuse Commissioners Steve Mulroy and Walter Bailey of other ethical lapses.

"You tell me you ain't got an agenda!," Roland yelled.

That was just the start. The tension in the room rose when it came time to approve the Chairman Harvey's new committee appointments.

A group of Democrats led by Commissioner Bailey tried to block Republican Commissioner Heidi Shafer's appointment as budget committee chair.
"She's a fine outstanding commissioner, however I do take issue with her politics," Commissioner Bailey said.

Commissioner Shafer's supporters were in the gallery, some of them calling the move sexist. The commissioner's allies agreed in the past, Democratic and Republican commission chairs have appointed committee leaders from the opposite party.

"So now we've got a very smart professional woman, happens to be a woman," Commissioner Chris Thomas said. "All of the sudden someone wants to take issue with that and say it has nothing to do with it."

But Democratic Commissioner Henri Brooks turned the tables attacking Shafer's voting record.

"To remove funds from planned parenthood where women can make their own choices and their own uninfluenced choices regarding their bodies that's sexism, that is sexism," Commissioner Brooks said.

The effort to oust Commissioner Shafer as budget chair failed and Chairman Harvey's slate of committee assignments was approved.

Republican Commissioner Wyatt Bunker called out the local and state Democratic party which censured Harvey over the weekend over his appointment of a Republican to a key post.

"You've got a chairman here Democrats that hasn't done anything illegal, hasn't done anything unethical, hasn't done anything even unlike any other chairman before him," Commissioner Bunker said. " Excuse the expression but you lynch him with censurship (sic)."

Finally, an observation about the process as the debate wrapped up cam from Commissioner Mulroy.

"I think we may have reached a new low for this body and that's saying a lot that's saying a lot for the Shelby County Commission," he said.

After the votes Commissioner Shafer said she did believe sexism played a role in the effort to oust her but said she will be getting to work as budget chair. Shafer's the next budget process will be more streamlined.

Commission Chairman Harvey says this will not be how meetings are run in the future. He said he won't tolerate it and commissioners will be working together.

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