God only knows why former state senator John Ford, knowledgeable as he was about the weight of evidence against him, ventured to go another round against the federal government's prosecution arm, putting up a defense of sorts in a Nashville courtroom against charges relating to
improper use of his office on behalf of a state TennCare contractor. God knows, and maybe John Ford himself.
Maybe it was the opportunity, one last time, to wear one of his superbly tailored suits or merely the chance to breathe some free Tennessee air before returning to his current — and, it would seem, longtime — residence in a federal prison in Louisiana. Ford became an inhabitant of that venue by virtue of his conviction last year on bribery charges resulting from the FBI's Tennessee Waltz sting.
Surely, Ford could not have doubted his own guilt this time around. As was revealed in a vintage wiretap introduced by the government at trial, the then state senator's brother, former congressman Harold Ford Sr., had clearly warned him of the criminal nature of his activities and urged him to make such accommodation with the authorities as he could.
In any case, Ford went down hard last week, adjudged guilty on all counts by his latest jury, as most observers presumed he would be, with sentencing scheduled for September 29th.
As we have noted before, John Ford was a legislator of rare ability who performed numerous services, both for local industries and for public-sector agencies. In particular, the mental-health network depended on Ford for its sustenance and survival. All this was more than counterbalanced by Ford's egregious misbehavior and his disgraceful greed, which in his mind required extravagant expenditures on a variety of luxuries, on multiple female liaisons and multiple offspring, and on the several different expensive dwellings needed to carry off all of this in high style.
So the man who could have been a role model ends instead as a proverbial figure — a reproach to other offenders against the public weal. It is, in every sense of the word, a shame.
Fixing the Flaw
The most overused term in local government of late has been this: "It's a flawed system." It's a sentence which has been spoken over and over in deliberations of the City Council and the County Commission and in Chancery Court, where a local judge has been asked to make some kind of order out of the chaos of school funding in Memphis and Shelby County.
On Monday, the Shelby County Commission deferred for the second time a vote on funding the Shelby County school system — one of two (the commission is also the primary funding source for city schools) that it has constitutional responsibility for. The ostensible reason was the commission's reluctance to approve salary increases for county school administrators that were out of kilter with austerity conditions imposed this year on other public employees. But the underlying issue, with funding for both school systems now hanging fire, remains the need to revamp the formulas, not only for funding the two school systems but for setting their spending priorities as well.
Ultimately, the task of revision will fall to the state legislature, and candidates for the General Assembly this year should be compelled to address it.