City Spent Thousands More for Contract with Mayor's Friend

City Spent Thousands More for Contract with Mayor's Friend

You paid for furniture to fill a brand new police precinct. Who got the job? A company connected to a longtime friend of Memphis Mayor A C Wharton. ABC 24's Senior Investigator Jeni Diprizio went digging through city documents to see how they landed the deal.
MEMPHIS, TN (abc24.com) - You paid for furniture to fill a brand new police precinct. Who got the job? A company connected to a longtime friend of Memphis Mayor A C Wharton. ABC 24's Senior Investigator Jeni Diprizio went digging through city documents to see how they landed the deal.

You may wonder why a company called Memphis Chemical and Janitorial got a furniture contract. We're told the company recently expanded into that business.

Those in the know say this deal stinks, but they are afraid to go on camera and speak out fearing retribution.

Months after new furniture was unloaded off trucks and installed in the new Crump Police Precinct, questions linger about how the company behind the furniture was awarded the contract.

It was given to Memphis Chemical and Janitorial Supply, which happens to be owned by the family of George Brown - a longtime friend of Mayor Wharton. In fact, the former Judge Brown swore Wharton into office.

When asked if his relationship was a factor in awarding the contract, Wharton replied, "Absolutely not."

But longtime government watchdog Joe Saino isn't so sure. Saino went through boxes of bid documents at city hall.

Stacks of records reveal three companies bid for the furniture contract. When the bids came in last February, two were from local companies. The winning bid came from a Michigan company called Trendway. A Trendway representative signed the bid documents originally submitted to the city.

Trendway also signed paperwork which outlined what furniture would be installed. But at the very bottom of one sheet of paper, Memphis Chemical's name is written in.

Mayor Wharton said he didn't remember when Memphis Chemical got involved, and handed us off to Chief Administrative Officer George Little for further questions.

Keep in mind, according to the city's original paperwork, no local company was involved in the Trendway bid.

Little was shown the document in question and stated, "I can't speak to that but I can say it passed by legal and finance."

But should any of the companies been given the contract? Originally all three bids were rejected. The city planned to start the process over until Memphis Chemical sent the city an undated letter protesting the bid rejections.

Twice, the city denied Memphis Chemical's protest. Then, a Memphis Chemical rep sent a letter asking Mayor Wharton to reconsider.

Wharton ruled in favor of his longtime friend's company

We went to Memphis Chemical's headquarters in the airport area looking for answers. At first, no one would let us in. Finally, President Laurita Jackson came to the door. Jackson referred almost all our questions back to City Hall.

If the city had taken the lowest bid, it would have saved taxpayers $30,000.

Once again, Wharton denies doing his friend any favors.

Saino's take on it all was, "It sounds like someone with influence wanted to direct this bid to a minority contractor."

Regardless, Mayor Wharton has the authority to decide who gets the contracts. He has the final say, according to the city's charter.

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