City attorney knew mayor’s campaign manager was awarded contract

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- "Thank you all very much," Mayor A C Wharton's staff told journalists Tuesday.

Staffers pulled Mayor Wharton away as WREG started asking questions about his campaign manager's big contract to promote police body cameras.

"The city attorney is going to handle everything on that," Wharton said.

WREG asked City of Memphis attorney Herman Morris about minority- and women-owned contracts with the city.

"We reflect on the basic legality of the contract," Morris said.

City lawyers reviewed the $4.5 million contract with TASER.

On Your Side Investigators read through the contract and looked specifically at the minority- or women-owned business section. The contract required TASER to award a minority company 10 percent of the body camera contract funds.

The mayor told WREG he never knew his campaign manager, Deidre Malone, was awarded the $880,000 contract (nearly double the amount the city required TASER to pay).

However, WREG learned others under the Wharton administration were aware of the Carter Malone Group's involvement.

A memo from the Office of Contract Compliance was sent to the Memphis Police Department saying: "TASER is utilizing the Carter Malone Group."

The memo was sent to MPD and reviewed by city lawyers prior to the TASER contract being signed by Mayor Wharton.

"We don't engage and involve him in the details leading up to the actual signing of the contract," Morris explained. "It would be inappropriate in our view to involve him in that part of the negotiation and structure and review."

Morris said it was not his office's place or responsibility to notify the mayor that someone in his inner circle was receiving a large contract to do work for the city.

"We are one of the many certifying agencies for the city," said Luke Yancy III, the president and CEO of the Mid-South Minority Business Council Continuum.

Yancy told WREG there was a large enough pool of minority PR and marketing firms in the Mid-South from which to choose.

"We've got about 25 certified members. We need to have more," Yancy said.

It is the organization's belief that all of its minority businesses are competing fairly.

TASER said there was only one other potential candidate that could have done PSAs, but the company did not make it into the final two.

A TASER spokesperson said the Carter Malone Group was chosen because of its quality of work.

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