Burgess says there’s no conflict of interest

Published 9:13 am Wednesday, November 24, 2010

FRANKLIN—Councilman Greg McLemore, who’s advocated for the removal of Vice Mayor Raystine Johnson and Councilman Benny Burgess from the city’s Redevelopment and Housing Authority Board, on Monday again publicly accused Burgess of a conflict of interest.

The issue stems from a January meeting of the FRHA board, where a contract was awarded to Parker Darden Heating & Air Conditioning, Burgess’ client in his accounting business, for work at Pretlow Gardens.

Burgess said he voted on the contract, but a few days later called the housing authority attorney because he wasn’t sure he should’ve voted on the matter.

“Nobody caught me, nobody slapped my hand,” Burgess said. “I did it voluntarily and (the attorney’s) recommendation was to show that I abstained from the vote (in the minutes).”

At its next meeting, the board approved amended minutes showing that Burgess abstained from the vote. Burgess said he spoke with three different attorneys who all agreed there was no conflict.

“The conflict only occurs if I am paid more than $10,000 by that client in any one year,” he said. “Parker Darden Heating & Air Conditioning does not pay me that amount of money, so therefore there is no conflict.”

McLemore said it was a housing authority issue, “but the council is supposed to be aware of what’s going on at the housing authority because we appoint people to it, we’re responsible to the citizens of Franklin.”

Burgess called the accusation an attempt to get him removed from the housing authority board and asked fellow council members to “do whatever you need to do so we can get on with the business of the city.”