Shelby County mayor sues commissioner over opioid lawsuit

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — "It's messy and confusing and it could have been avoided," said Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell,  after filing a lawsuit against the chair of the Shelby County Commission, Heidi Shafer, over a contract she entered without his or the full Commission's approval.

"I think it was ill-advised on her part. I think it was unilateral without the consent of the County Commission and it has complicated county government's initiatives to move forward," he told reporters Tuesday.

Luttrell said his office was already working on how to move forward in fighting the opioid crisis, but last week Shafer and some county commissioners announced they hired a firm and had filed their own suit.

That set off the battle at the top.

"We are not rubber stamps. We are not vassels of the Mayor. Neither are we inmates in a prison," said Shafer.

She said the mayor has been sitting on his hands for years until she has decided to act.

"The situation is dire and the mayor has had over two years to do something with it."

Now they are fighting it out in court.

"First of all, how ignorant can you be when the mayor is trying to make the county sue the county," said County Commissioner Terry Roland.

Roland said entering a contract where the firm represents the County, protects the county's interest and the county only pays if they win.

"It is not costing the county a dime so why is the mayor fighting so hard? Is it because he didn't get to pick the law firm," asked  Roland.

"It's messy. It is messy. It angers me. It frustrates me. It diverts me from the process of trying to solve this problem and have to fiddle around with a lawsuit," said Luttrell.

"It's Shelby County suing Shelby County and you know who is losing from this, apart from the taxpayers who pay for this, the people still caught in this web of drug addiction," said Shafer.

Mayor Luttrell's lawsuit went before a judge Tuesday afternoon and was re-set for next Tuesday. The judge told all the parties to find a fix to the problem.

There will be a called County Commission meeting Wednesday at 10 a.m. That's when the commission will vote to ratify the law firm hired by Shafer.

WREG was also told the commission will take a no vote of confidence in the county attorney, who they say has failed to advise them in all of this and who has been working with the mayor instead.