MEMPHIS, Tenn. — There is controversy surrounding a contract promoting police body cameras.
Mayor A C Wharton’s campaign manager was awarded nearly $900,000 to do public relations and marketing for the new technology.
While some critics said it seemed strange, the Wharton campaign said there is nothing fishy about it.
“The bottom line — it was a private contract which did not come to my attention at all,” Wharton told WREG.
Wharton said he was unaware his campaign manager was awarded an $880,000 contract to do marketing for Memphis Police Department body cameras.
“TASER hired my firm, and I’m very proud of that,” Deidre Malone said.
Malone, the owner of the Carter-Malone group, is Wharton’s campaign manager.
TASER hired her firm to get the word out about body cameras after winning the city’s $4.5 million contract.
“It looks sort of strange to me,” Councilman Harold Collins said.
Candidates at the NAACP’s mayoral forum criticized the fact Malone placed a bid for the contract while running Wharton’s campaign.
“I wouldn’t have my paid campaign manager bidding on work involving the city,” Councilman Jim Strickland said. “I just don’t think that’s the right way to do things.”
“When we received the contract, TASER was already hired by the City of Memphis. So there’s nothing fishy about a minority-owned, woman-owned business obtaining a contract with the city,” Malone argued.
WREG wanted to know why the mayor did not know about details in the contract or the hefty marketing expense.
Wharton said the contract was drafted by an outside entity and signed off by city lawyers.
“As mayor, even if it’s their decision, you’re signing a multimillion-dollar contract with the City of Memphis,” Collins said. “You have to make sure all the participation is above board and without reproach.”
The mayor told WREG he is looking to make sure every “i” was dotted, and every “t” was crossed but said nothing shady was going on. However, the he refused to answer more questions about the issue from the media.
“Once I find out more about it, I’ll be glad to talk with you more about it,” Wharton said.
WREG contacted TASER, the company that hired Malone’s firm.
A spokesperson responded by email with the following statement:
“The Memphis Police Department specifically requested the provision of public service announcements (PSA). TASER representatives attended an M/WBE workshop held in Memphis, TN, on July 14, 2015, at which time TASER representatives engaged in introductory discussions with eighteen (18) M/WBE certified firms. A number of the firms provided services redundant to those provided by TASER as the prime contractor on this project. TASER chose to contract with The Carter Malone Group, a M/WBE certified firm, based on their quality of work as they provided complementary services – namely, the provision of PSAs, public relations and related services.”