MEMPHIS, TN (abc24.com) - Former Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton denies charges that his charter school group is affiliated in any way with a controversial organization from Turkey.
Harmony Schools is a Texas-based group that runs charter schools in several states. There have been allegations that Harmony is tied to an Islamic cleric who is trying to spread Islam into the U.S.
Harmony denies it, and Willie Herenton says they aren't working with him. Shelby County Commissioner Terry Roland now says he wants to know the truth.
Nobody has ever connected Harmony Schools with the Islamic group headed by a man named Fethullah Gulen, but they do business with groups that the government says sends money to the Gulen groups.
Willie Herenton listed Harmony as a consultant when applying for charter schools. Terry Roland says he wants officials to look into everything.
It's a long way from terry Roland's tire store in Millington to Turkey. The Shelby County Commissioner says if there's a possibility of taxpayer money being spent improperly, he'll look into anything. Even a group that so far, has no official ties into supporting any Islamic movements.
"If there is any connection to the Islamic movement or if they're just taking our public dollars and using them wrong, we need to know that too," Roland said.
Harmony Schools operates one charter school in town already, located in a business park in southeast Memphis. They operate dozens of other schools across the country.
When former Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton announced that his group, the W.E.B. Du Bois Consortium of Schools, wanted to open charter schools, he listed Harmony as a consultant.
He said, "We do not have any financial, any contractual, any strategic relationship with Harmony, while I recognize they're a fine organization."
For Terry Roland, he wants an investigation and a closer look at the Herenton application.
"Mayor Herenton clearly stated that he just put it in there for fluff. Well, does that mean he falsified that application?" Roland asked. "Does that mean his charter application should be denied because of falsification of references?"
The former mayor says this whole fuss is about power, control and money, and says again, he is not involved with any deal with Harmony schools.
"We do not have any relationship with Harmony. Harmony is mentioned as a potential strategic partner. I want to make a statement that from all of my research it is an outstanding charter managing organization."
Roland wants to know why the state board of education approved the Herenton permits after they were refused by the school board.
What Roland didn't say, and maybe it's because he didn't know, is the school board denied all charter school applications this year for financial reasons.
After the state treasurer ruled against them, the state board of education approved all the charter school applications, including Willie Herenton's.