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Ford Apologizes for FedEx Spending

(Story created: 12/12/03)

State Sen. John Ford, D-Memphis, has apologized for his personal use of the state's FedEx account. In addition, he says he'll reimburse the state for any improper charges. Questions about Ford's spending were first uncovered by a NewsChannel 5 investigation.

Here is the statement released by Sen. Ford:

Over the past thirty days I have had my integrity questioned to a degree that it has never been questioned before. Let me hasten to point out that I understand fully that I have been the subject of much controversy in the past. There is one major difference about the instant controversy; it could be seen as questioning my personal honesty and integrity. It is because of that fact that over the past weeks I have made statements and protested vigorously against any insinuation that I would do anything to take something from the citizens of the State of Tennessee to which I was not entitled. This effort is becoming all too consuming. I regret this entire matter, and apologize to the citizens of the State of Tennessee.

I recently received from A C Wharton, Shelby County Mayor, a request that I choose the course of statesmanship and take steps to put this matter behind us so that I can continue a leadership role in looking out for the interests of Shelby Countians in the upcoming legislative session. I have the utmost respect for Mayor Wharton's judgment. It is not solely a matter of respecting Mayor Wharton's personal judgment; it's more a matter of accepting his plea that we all put the interests of the citizens of Shelby County and Tennessee first.

Accordingly, I have decided that upon receipt of confirmation from Comptroller John Morgan of any charges which might appear to be inappropriate, I will pay same in full.

Here is A C Wharton's letter to Ford:

Dear John:

This letter comes as a follow-up to our conversations with respect to the controversy surrounding certain charges made on your State of Tennessee Federal Express account. I hope this letter will communicate clearly and forcefully what I deem to be in the best interest of all Shelby Countians. Additionally, I trust it will reflect the sincere admiration I have for your many legislative accomplishments on behalf of the citizens of Shelby County, and for the State of Tennessee as a whole.

Let me say at the outset that I have not undertaken any investigation as to whether the charges were appropriate. I understand that you and others may have held the mistaken understanding that the Federal Express account could be used in the same manner as the home office allowance. However, the Comptroller has confirmed that the subject account is treated differently than the office allowance. As you well know, I have my hands full in dealing with the challenges I face on a daily basis here in the Shelby County Mayor's office. Even without an investigation, however, it is obvious that the furor surrounding these charges will continue to distract us all at a time when we can least afford any distractions. As I write this letter, our Governor is releasing the TennCare study, which poses additional financial challenges for the State of Tennessee. As in the past, dealing with the problems of TennCare will demand the full-time attention of the sage legislative leaders, such as yourself.

On the local front, the Shelby County legislative package will include numerous bills designed to help us deal with our significant financial challenges. As in the past, it is our hope that you will be able to take a full leadership role in shepherding these bills into law.

Over our forty-year plus relationship, I perhaps have gotten to know you better than most folks here in Shelby County. Unfortunately, the shipping charges controversy for the first time in your career may cause some to question your basic honesty. The impression may be given that you are necessitous, and so much so, that you have to resort to using public resources for private gain. All of us who know you well know nothing could be further from the truth. However, to refute those appearances would require untold hours on your part, precious time which could be better used doing what you were elected to do and what you have done so well for many years: represent fully, aggressively and competently the interests of Shelby County and its citizens.

It is against that background, my personal knowledge of your makeup, the needs of Shelby County citizens in the upcoming session of the legislature, that I make this personal request that in order to put this matter behind you, you reimburse all questioned charges immediately. This is one of those instances, John, which all of us in public office face sometime in which from a personal perspective we feel that we should take a course that would vindicate us, but in the best interest of public service, we pursue a course that places our personal interests beneath those of the public. After all, that is a true mark of statesmanship. It has often been said that a politician thinks of a next election, but a statesman thinks of the next generation. While this course of action may hurt you in the next election, I am sure that it will inure to the benefit of coming generations, particularly in the work of the upcoming session of the legislature.

I ask that you give this personal plea your prayerful consideration and follow a course of action which is consistent with your past service to the citizens of the State of Tennessee, and immediately reimburse any questioned charges.

A C Wharton Jr.

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