Thursday, November 30, 2006

Memphis Politics - Three More Bite the Dust - More to Follow

From WHBQ's Website -
Memphis, Tenn. (WHBQ)- Operation Main Street Sweeper and Operation Clean Sweep are federal investigations that caught three city leaders in an alleged web of public corruption. City councilmen Edmund Ford and Rickey Peete and former Shelby County Commissioner Joe Cooper have all been arrested and face 20 years in prison.

It's tragic on the one hand, yet usual and customary, on the other. As I have said many times in the past, we have a culture of corruption in Memphis and Shelby County. That is a contributing factor to this constant cycle of indictment, denial, conviction of public officials. The current Sheriff, mayors, the District Attorney, and most of the commissioners and council members have enjoyed the company of these indictees. I pulled Mark Luttrell, AC Wharton, Bill Gibbons, and other's disclosure forms this year. One thing that almost shocked me was that all of them had taken money from convicted felons. Bill Gibbons called me the day after I pulled his, I guess with the idea of attempting to intimidate me. I told him I was checking to see who had taken money from a convicted cocaine dealer, Rusty Hyneman. Well he offered that he didn't even know him and had only met him once and he went further to say he would never take money from him. I said, I didn't think he would, but then again, I didn't think the Sheriff or mayor would do that either. I thanked him for calling and went about my business. I found later, after rechecking, that he had taken money from a convicted felon by the name of Ricky Peete. The same Rickey Peete who was arrested today.

The local politicians see no problem with consorting with these underworld figures and even take money from them, as Mark Luttrell has said, with no apology.

I'm posting just a few clips of the disclosure forms of some of our illustrious officials who are and have been pals with these criminals and soon to be criminals:

Here is evidence that Bill Gibbons is supported by Rickey Peete.
click to enlarge

And here is evidence of Mark Luttrell's contribution from Joe Cooper. Of course, I could also post snapshots of him taking money from other convicted felons like Rusty Hyneman, William B. Tanner and others, but since Joe Cooper is the one who was arrested today, I'll just post his.
click to enlarge

Luttrell says he thinks it's okay to run with these people. Here's a quote from Channel 3's website this summer:
In their first live televised debate, both incumbent Sheriff Mark Luttrell and Democrat Reginald French answered some tough questions.

Especially on campaign contributions. Both admitted taking money from convicted felons.

"I make no apologies for working with people who are contributing to the betterment of society who have paid their debt to society," says Luttrell.

Then there's this picture of Joe Cooper at Mark Luttrell's HQ Grand Opening:

click to enlarge

Wintermute points out that Steve Cohen passed a law that will help ensure that thugs cannot serve once convicted, thereby closing a gaping loophole that allowed Ricky Peete to get back in the groove. While I don't agree with a some of Steve Cohen's views, he did us a great favor with this one.

"This year in the Tennessee General Assembly, Senator Steve Cohen was successful in getting restoration of the right to vote streamlined for most ex-felons, except those convicted of a few named offenses (new law in .pdf); but on a subject Steve and I discussed previously, he also got passed in that law a prohibition on anyone committing malfeasance in public office ever being able to regain the right to vote -- and consequently to be able to run for office again -- in Tennessee. This supplements the 1989 law providing for a permanent exclusion from public office for bribery and a 10-year bar for official misconduct."

One thing some of these arrestees have in common is they are no strangers to the legal system. Ricky Peete served time in the Federal pen once already, as did Joe Cooper. Another thing that keeps surfacing is billboards. There must be a ton of money in billboard advertising . . . .

It also seems a little more than coincidence that Joe Cooper has been linked to another politician with the last name of Peete - now deceased Chancellor Floyd Peete.
Joe testified he arranged for the chancellor to fly on a plane owned by Rusty Hyneman to a Sugar Bowl game. Joe was working for William B. Tanner at the time, and also Rusty, I guess. Here's a link to a site that has the story the Commercial Appeal ran. And here's an excerpt from the story:

On Tanner, Cooper testified that the billboard and banking mogul hired him sometime around 1996, paying him $60,000 a year as a land development consultant and business executive.

Although Cooper's employment ended near the start of 2000, he testified he "was still doing things'' for Tanner and carrying three of the businessman's credit cards around Labor Day 2001 when Chancellor Peete called him from Florida.

Cooper recalled Peete telling him "his credit card was not working and he needed to pay for some rooms for the weekend.'' Cooper said he called Peete's hotel and "purported myself to be William B. Tanner,'' then used one of Tanner's cards to cover the $1,400 charge.

A month after the incident, Peete ruled in Tanner's favor in the lawsuit against him, ordering Peck to reimburse Tanner for $719,586 spent in his legal defense. Peck's lawyers contend the hotel charge amounted to improper influence, yet Cooper said Peete never knew he'd used Tanner's card.

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