Memphis mayor A C Wharton got in some smack talk Wednesday in response to Shelby County Commissioner Joe Ford’s critical remarks Monday about the financial prowess of Wharton’s recent administration as county mayor. Ford made the remarks in the course of his still unresolved contest with fellow commissioner J.W. Gibson to become interim county mayor.
Midway of the nearly 30 ballot-marathon that failed to produce a winner, both Ford and Gibson bridled at Commissioner Deidre Malone’s attempt to break a recurring 5-5 impasse in the voting by nominating a would-be compromise candidate, current county CAO and finance director Jim Huntzicker, who occupied that position under Wharton.
Gibson, the beneficiary of Malone’s votes up to that point (and later) seemed mildly put out, saying to Malone, “You never cease to amaze me.” But Ford used stronger language, suggesting that the “former administration” was guilty of outright fiscal mismanagement that could result in “disaster” if its financial practices were to be continued for the next several months.
Asked his reaction following a Veteran’s Day ceremony Wednesday, Wharton said Ford was off base with the criticism, which he said showed little understanding of the facts. “That’s one place he should never have gone,” Wharton said, suggesting that Ford’s remarks were made for political effect and nothing else.
Wharton was asked if Ford’s criticism should therefore be regarded as “ill-founded,” and responded, smiling wryly, “He doesn’t even know enough about the question to have any idea whether what he’s saying is ill-founded or well-founded or whatever.”