Attorney: Commissioner Chism's Votes a Conflict of Interest

Attorney: Commissioner Chism's Votes a Conflict of Interest

A Shelby County Commissioner's voting record is under scrutiny. A private attorney hired at your expense to check on Sidney Chism says he voted four times on Head Start issues involving taxpayer money. Those votes are possible conflicts of interest, because Chism owns a daycare center that receives Head Start money.
MEMPHIS, TN (localmemphis.com) - A Shelby County Commissioner's voting record is under scrutiny. A private attorney hired at your expense to check on Sidney Chism says he voted four times on Head Start issues involving taxpayer money. Those votes are possible conflicts of interest, because Chism owns a daycare center that receives Head Start money.

No investigation was done, no hearing has been held, and Chism hasn't been found guilty of anything. But, his name has already been tarnished.

Lawyer Ricky Wilkins represents Sidney Chism, and says the whole thing doesn't make sense. Chism has owned a day care center for years. He's voted on programs involving Head Start for years.

"No one in county government has ever said to him, 'Mr. Chism, this matter is now on the agenda, we think because you own a daycare, you shouldn't vote on it,'" Wilkins told localmemphis.com.

Everything changed in April just as budget negotiations were beginning. Commissioner Terry Roland of Millington asked for an ethics investigation.

Normally the county attorney handles these things, but in this case - at taxpayer expense, by the way - a private lawyer was brought in.

Ricky Wilkins says the Head Start programs send money for children's programs.

He explained, "These dollars are federal dollars that go to the children, not to the daycare center. They're services for children who are eligible under federal standards."

The county attorney's office never conducted an investigation, according to Ricky Wilkins. They're supposed to do that. They refuse to give Wilkins an opinion on whether they think Chism has violated ethics laws. He says they're supposed to do that as well.

"It's interesting we are where we are. Because in my mind the county isn't following its own rules, but wants to hold Mr. Chism to a standard that not even they are willing to comply with."

Roland wasn't available to talk, but he has asked the state attorney general for a ruling on this issue.

Several calls to the Shelby County Attorney weren't returned.

A hearing is tentatively scheduled for next month.

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