Money from the Overton Park Conservancy (OPC) was accepted by the Memphis City Council Tuesday for a project to reconfigure the Memphis Zoo’s parking lot but not before council member Joe Brown compared OPC to a notorious con man.
The OPC announced last week it was prepared to send its $250,000 portion of funds to begin design work on the project. Accepting those funds was on the council’s agenda Tuesday.
During the meeting, zoo officials said they would withhold their portion of the funds for the project because OPC officials told them that they did not have the money for the construction portion of the project, estimated to cost a total of about $3 million. However, OPC officials said that statement was untrue.
Brown made a motion to table the OPC’s contribution to the project for at least 30 days, until the matter could be straightened out.
Allan Wade, the council’s attorney, said if the original measure to accept the funds were approved in a committee meeting Tuesday, no vote from the full council would be taken for 20 days, until the council meets again. He said that should be “ample time” to iron out the disagreements on the matter.
Brown cast the only vote to approve his motion. Other members of the committee voted unanimously to approve the acceptance of the funds.
Brown said that, as a legislator, it is his job to “speak up and speak out” if he sees “irregularities” in any matter that comes before him for a vote. He said the OPC doesn’t have the money for the project.
“(OPC) sat here at this table today and pulled a Billy Sol Estes,” Brown said. “Some of y’all might not know who Billy Sol Estes was but he was a great con man.”
Estes was a Texas swindler who made millions from scams in the 1950s and 1960s.