Council votes against filing misconduct charges

Published 9:41 am Wednesday, March 30, 2011


FRANKLIN—The City Council decided against charging Councilman Benny Burgess and Vice Mayor Raystine Johnson with misconduct for an alleged conflict of interest in also serving as board members on the Franklin Redevelopment and Housing Authority.

A motion by Councilman Barry Cheatham to prepare a charge of misconduct against Burgess was voted down unanimously on Monday with Councilmen Don Blythe and Greg McLemore abstaining, and Johnson and Burgess not voting.

McLemore has advocated for the removal of council members from the Housing Authority Board since a FRHA board meeting last year in which a contract was awarded to a client of Burgess’ accounting business.

McLemore said during Monday’s council meeting that he was against preparing a charge at this time because there wasn’t enough evidence to conclude that a conflict of interest had taken place. He said there was no proof that Burgess had a personal interest or investment of more than $10,000 in the client to which the contract was awarded.

“There is no way to verify how much was spent with the client in question,” McLemore said. “The only way to verify how much was spent is to subpoena records.”

The council then voted down by a margin of 3-1 a motion made by Cheatham to prepare a misconduct charge against Johnson for failure to notify the city of the possible conflict of interest. McLemore voted in favor of the motion and Blythe abstained.

The motions were both made after the Rev. Carlton Lowe of Franklin expressed a need to continue having council members on the Housing Authority Board.

“I believe they were put there to consummate the relationship between the city and the board,” Lowe said.

Lowe added that Burgess was needed on the board for his knowledge of finance and Johnson was needed for her knowledge of city matters.

Burgess, at the council’s March 14 meeting, had requested a vote on the matter to clear the air after months of questions raised by McLemore. Cheatham, a Burgess ally, made the motions in an apparent effort to force a vote and put the matter to rest.