MEMPHIS, TN (abc24.com) - Memphis is broke, but that didn't stop Mayor A C Wharton from hiring a former Shelby County Commissioner and paying him $90,000. Mike Carpenter is the controversial commissioner who led the charge to cut vacation and sick days for county employees. Now he's working across the street at city hall.
Carpenter was hired as a consultant for intergovernmental relations this month. He is being paid well. Those following the situation wonder why he was hired in the first place.
"You hear we're in a budget crisis but then you turn around and hire Mike Carpenter for $90,000, something is wrong with that picture," noted Memphis City Council member Janis Fullilove.
She has questions about Memphis hiring Mike Carpenter for a job that is essentially making nice with lawmakers in Nashville. Carpenter is a Republican in a Democratic city.
Fullilove asked, "If he is lobbying for us in Nashville, will he put aside politics and do what's best for the citizens of Memphis? That's what concerns me."
"We cut back wrecker drivers and park employees and all the other things that provide services to the city citizens, and we're hiring these other people that make over $90,000; what purpose does that serve?" stated Mike Williams with the Memphis Police Association.
The head of the police union is concerned - given Carpenter's moves on the county commission to cut employee benefits - that trouble could be on the horizon.
"He's right in line and in sync with the other things the mayor is trying to do to city employees."
Truth is Carpenter and Wharton have known each other for years, back to the days when Wharton was Shelby County Mayor.
Those following the situation say there were current employees who could have done this job, saving the city money.
Truth is it is Memphis politics as usual: crying poor on one hand and hiring a $90,000 consultant on the other.
"What frustrates me is citizens not paying attention to what's going on."
Hiring Carpenter as a consultant instead of being a regular employee does mean the city doesn't have to pay him benefits. But truth is it's also another way for Wharton to avoid the scrutiny of hiring yet another appointee.