Shelby County Commission (Photo: Shelbycountyyn.gov)
The Shelby County Board of Commissioners discussed a motion Monday to create an independent panel overlooking appointees to the Shelby County Ethics Commission.
The group, called the Blue Ribbon Advisory Panel, was sponsored by Chairman Eddie S. Jones, Jr, Commissioners Amber Mills and Mark Billinglsey and created as a way to have neutral third party vet nominees to the ethics commission.
Mills said the motion was meant to lay the foundation for upcoming ethics cases.
According to the resolution, several pending cases are headed to the ethics commission, and because the Shelby County Attorney’s Office recused itself, sponsors wished to create an advisory panel that could make independent recommendations to the commission. This would include any nominations made by the county mayor and members of the county commission.
The Shelby County Commission has been touched by scandal in recent months. County Commissioner Edmund Ford, Jr., faces an ethics inquiry and allegations that he knowingly violated the county charter and code of ethics.
Ford currently serves as the chair of the county commission’s Audit and Budget Committees, and a county investigation found that he had not disclosed his business interests with a nonprofit organization that had received $450,000 in grant money from the county. Ford’s business did not disclose that he sold computers to the nonprofit, Memphis Junior Achievement, which resulted in a $45,000 profit.
Although details have yet to be hammered out, and others showed confusion and questioned whether the panel was necessary, Jones said “the objective is that it’s independent of us and the executive branch.”
The motion to create an advisory panel independent of the ethics commission was eventually sent back into the committee queue for consideration, since council members were confused on the exact purpose of the panel.
“To me, this just seems simply like an extra layer of government,” said Commissioner Brandon Morrison, wondering why this commission is being treated differently.
Metro Nashville has its own Blue Ribbon Advisory Panel meant to serve as an independent group that identifies government inefficiencies, and Shelby County’s version is meant to mirror similar policies.
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