Shelby Co. commissioner questions fellow commissioners' school t - Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Shelby Co. commissioner questions fellow commissioners' school tax votes

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MEMPHIS, TN -

(WMC-TV) - Shelby County Commissioner Sidney Chism is accused by a fellow commissioner of using his power to help his own personal business.

Commissioner Terry Roland is accusing Chism of voting on Head Start funding he says benefited Chism's day care. They sat across from one another at an awkward ethics hearing Tuesday as their attorneys went toe-to-toe.

Defense Attorney Ricky Wilkins says Roland's claims against Chism are unfounded.

"We categorically deny Mr. Chism has done anything improper," he said.

An attorney, hired by the county to fight Roland's argument, told the ethics panel he begs to differ.

"You have a sitting commissioner who voted on a contract. That contract named the sitting commissioner's daycare center," said Brian Faughan, Roland's attorney.

Roland says he got a tip Chism voted on legislation that routed funds to his Horn Lake Road day care facility for students services, including dental screenings and meals.

"After this was put in my lap, I had to act on it," said Roland.

The hearing never got off the ground because Wilkins claimed the attorney hired to argue Roland's claims bogged him down with vague, extraneous, and incomplete evidence.

"He sent some discovery to me this morning about something that happened yesterday, which I don't think has any relevance to this proceeding because the charges relate to votes Commissioner Chism made in 2012," said Wilkins.

Attorney Brian Faughnan said Wilkins seemed more focused on the process than the case.

"We have a fundamental difference of opinion on the complexity of this matter, how we got here," said Faughan.

Wilkins said this action, coming from a commissioner who complained for years about spending taxpayer dollars on outside attorneys, is hypocritical.

"Yet in this matter, the county has seen to it to hire a lawyer to prosecute Roland's complaint against Commissioner Chism," he said.

Roland said the attorney had to be impartial, "I had no control over this because I couldn't prosecute anybody if I wanted to."

The panel will reconvene the end of August to review Chism's rebuttal.

If you would like to see the entire complaint filed against Chism, click here: http://ftpcontent4.worldnow.com/wmctv/ethicscomplaint.pdf

Copyright 2013 WMC-TV. All rights reserved.

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