Boyd's employment by FedEx Logistics missing from state disclosure form

By Updated: March 15, 2019 9:03 PM CT | Published: March 15, 2019 3:07 PM CT

Memphis City Council member Berlin Boyd has worked for FedEx Logistics since August 2018, a critical period of time in which the division of FedEx was weighing whether to relocate to the Gibson Guitar plant Downtown – a move Boyd pushed.

The disclosure, confirmed by FedEx Logistics president and chief executive officer Richard Smith following a report in The Commercial Appeal, comes after a February announcement by Smith that FedEx Logistics would relocate to the plant site near FedExForum. At the announcement, Smith publicly credited Boyd for pushing it as one of several possible Downtown locations.

At the time, neither Smith nor Boyd indicated Boyd had been working for that specific part of FedEx Corp. for seven months.

“He’s not involved in Gibson at all, he hasn’t worked on it,” Smith told The Daily Memphian Friday. “And the City Council doesn’t vote on incentives, so he hasn’t voted on anything related to the project. This deal was handled in the appropriate manner.”

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Boyd did not disclose his employment by FedEx on the conflict of interest disclosure form the state required local elected officials to file with the Tennessee Ethics Commission by the end of January.

The information about employment on the forms is a single line naming the employer.

The disclosure form Boyd filed by the Jan. 31 deadline lists investment income he receives from 1544 Madison Partnership, the developers of a Midtown apartment complex.

Boyd disclosed the partnership in the Midtown development and recused himself from all City Council votes on the development.

Billy Orgel, a partner in the 1544 Madison development, is among the owners of the Gibson Guitar property and is involved in the development of The Clipper, a $250 million multiuse office tower and hotel next to the Gibson property.

Boyd is not a partner in The Clipper.

Smith described Boyd’s job duties as “supporting our Cross Border (e-commerce) division with their facilities needs and also some of our Express Clearance Operations office expansion.”

Reports surfaced last June that FedEx Logistics, then known as FedEx Trade Networks, was negotiating to move into the Gibson Guitar building Downtown. FedEx Logistics announced plans in February to puts its global headquarters and nearly 700 employees at Gibson, which ceased production of guitars around the same time.

The specialty services arm of Memphis-based FedEx Corp. provides services including freight forwarding, supply chain management, ocean shipping and 3-D printing. It has about 3,000 employees in Memphis.

Drew Rawlins, executive director of the Tennessee Ethics Commission, said Boyd's omission could possibly lead to a fine of up to $10,000.

“Someone would have to file a sworn complaint with our office,” Rawlins said. “It would go before the ethics commission in a confidential meeting. At that meeting, the ethics commission, based on a sworn complaint, would either choose to dismiss it or move forward with the sworn complaint.”

Moving forward would mean an investigation by the Tennessee attorney general’s office.

“They send us back a report from that investigation. Then the ethics commission would hold a confidential meeting where they would determine whether to move forward with it based on the AG’s report.”

If the commission pursued the results of the AG’s investigation, the elected official accused in the complaint would appear in a public hearing before the six-member commission.

Boyd’s disclosure form lists his employment as Boyd and Associates, a consulting firm Boyd owns that was hired by the Beale Street Merchants Association in 2017 as the council considered crowd control measures for the entertainment district.

Boyd ended the contract with the merchants after being criticized for working for the association while being a prominent voice in the council debate over Beale Street security measures. That discussion included the controversial question of a cover charge the merchants charged for entry into the district on Saturday nights in the spring and summer.

“I believe the public has this perception that we have so much control over Beale Street, which we do not,” Boyd told council members at the time. “It’s all the administration. … I don’t like this body being in the news for anything. If my name is mentioned in the news, it affects each of you. So I do apologize to you guys. I had no intention that this was going to go this way.”

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He cited a legal opinion from council attorney Allan Wade that included the larger question of whether disclosure of a possible conflict of interest requires a council member to recuse themselves from a vote on a matter.

The city’s ethics ordinance, Wade said, doesn’t require a council member to recuse himself or herself for “a personal interest that affects or that would lead a reasonable person to infer that it affects his vote on a measure.”

“Recusal is not required, but is within the discretion of the officer voting on the measure,” Wade wrote. “Indeed, state law only requires disclosure even if it is a conflict.”

In the case of Beale Street, Wade said there was no conflict because the council had no say in the administration of the district, only access to the district on what is considered city property.

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Rawlins said the ethics commission rules include provisions for an officeholder to amend their disclosure.

“However, it doesn’t necessarily preclude you from being assessed a civil penalty,” he said. “You still left it off for whatever that time period was. You want to amend things if you left them off. But it doesn’t necessarily mean that the ethics commission would just dismiss the complaint.”

City Councilman Worth Morgan sponsored a resolution approved by the council on a 7-3 vote in February requiring a link to the state disclosure forms for each council member to be attached to their biographies on the council’s web page.

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Boyd was among the three no votes on the resolution. Three other council members either abstained or did not vote on the matter.

Morgan said the forms can be difficult to find on the various state websites.

"It’s simply taking what’s already out there and attaching each individual council member's statement of interest to their city council web page,” Morgan said. “So as people are going through the city of Memphis website, if they come to our pages with our bios on it, they will also be able to see our statement of interest.”

Council chairman Kemp Conrad's disclosure form was the first posted with his bio on the council website. Some of the forms from the state's website weren't transferred correctly for use on the city website, Conrad said Friday. 

Under terms of the resolution, the council has until Thursday to post the forms. But Conrad said other council members were posting their disclosure forms early as the weekend began. 


Memphis City Council Berlin Boyd Richard Smith Fedex Logistics Worth Morgan

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