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It's part of the perks of being mayor of a big city but, how much bang for the buck do taxpayers get from having the city's leader drive around in an expensive luxury car?
It's the art of the deal which had some Memphis City Council members in shock.
"Why don't we just buy the 2010?," said Councilman Kemp Conrad.
"I can't answer," said Martha Lott, the city director of general services.
It just wasn't Lott's finest hour in government service. Who could have guessed the flap the usually "unflappable" city director of general services created during her appearance before the bewildered members of the Memphis City Council Budget Committee.
It came as she was presenting requested cost figures regarding just how much taxpayers foot the bill for the 402 take home vehicles used by city employees, a recognized practice that most in city government view as cost efficient that isn't necessarily shared by John Q Public putting along in his 10-year old Honda Civic.
"The con side is citizens don't think it's feasible, viable process to do," Lott said.
It was while on the subject of feasible that eyebrows of council members started to raise and twitch when they saw the cost of $2,286 a month posted as the leasing price for Mayor A C Wharton's recently leased brand new Cadillac GTS; a lease agreement with Bud Davis Cadillac that had just come through her office for review just two weeks ago.
Suddenly the floodgates opened.
"$2,200 a month? I mean some people have made some comparisons already," Councilman Conrad said. "I bet this is probably more than most Memphians mortgage every month."
"The amount of money per month, I mean this is not in the realm of reasonable for a lease," added Councilman Lee Harris. "That's like the highest lease amount conceivable. I'm not saying the mayor doesn't deserve a nice car, but I'm saying whoever negotiated this deal, I'll always want to be on the opposite side of the table from."
"I personally think this sends the wrong message and from a culture standpoint when you've got a city that's in our condition," Conrad said.
A defenseless Lott seemed at a loss for words herself as council members appeared to be working themselves into such a frenzy as they were ready to storm the seventh floor for answers.
But, fortunately within half an hour an answer did arrive. In a written statement sent to media outlets, Lott declared she "misspoke" on the mayor's monthly car lease. The $2,200 figure was the amount paid at the time of the lease signing. The real cost for the monthly lease was still a hefty $1,209.89.
Tempers cooled because after all if it had been true we'd all be headed to the seventh floor wouldn't we? If the city would just pay for our gas.
Below is the complete listing of the 402 cars.