Memphis city councilman, attorney accused of withholding public documents

WATCH: Activists accused city councilman and attorney of withholding public documents

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Local activists are lodging accusations that a Memphis City Councilman and the City Council’s attorney purposefully mislead the public and even withheld publicly available documents.

“There was a complete and utter lack of transparency and honesty from then-Chairman Boyd,” said Aaron Fowles, with Ranked Choice Tennessee, one of the groups going head-to-head with Memphis City Council on Instant Runoff Voting. “The voters lost their voice.”

Last summer, council members Janice Fullilove, Bill Morrison, and Edmund Ford announced they’d run for county offices.

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Save IRV activists pressured them to resign in August if they won, prompting a special election in November to fill their seats. Then-Chairman Berlin Boyd didn’t agree.

“He said there was an opinion stating there could be no special election in November,” Fowles told FOX13 Monday.

The council members didn’t resign, leaving three open seats. Their replacements were appointed by the council, but not without infighting and a halt on the city’s business.

Meanwhile, activists were requesting the legal opinion cited by Boyd.

“It took them roughly 10 months to come up with one email that had nothing to do with the legality of special elections,” Fowles said of what came of their FOIA request.

That response came just last week.

FOX13 spoke with City Council Attorney Alan Wade Monday. He said the charter provides you can have a special election, but there’s debate regarding when it can take place.

He said that opinion wasn’t subject to the public records because of attorney-client privilege. However, Wade and Boyd both publicly referenced said opinion.

Wade wouldn’t interview on-camera Monday but said the issue is moot because the council members refused to resign. He said the activists are anti-incumbent and anti-Berlin Boyd.

Boyd forwarded FOX13’s request for comment to Wade. Wade’s response was seemingly on behalf of both of them. Boyd never responded.

“We are just trying to shed light on the lengths to which the City Council is willing to go to subvert the will of voters,” Fowles said.

He argues things could have turned out differently on the city council if Memphians were given the chance to vote.