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Shady dealings: Memphis mayor's campaign manager awarded $900k contract to promote body cameras

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A city marketing contract, worth nearly a million dollars, was awarded to the PR firm of the Memphis mayor’s campaign manager.

Opponents are now questioning the decision to award Mayor AC Wharton’s campaign manager with a $880,000 contract to promote police body cameras after the camera maker won the bid to produce the cameras.  The camera maker, TASER, was awarded $4.5 million to provide Memphis with the body cameras, which was followed by the Mayor’s campaign manager getting the large contract.

Mayor Wharton’s campaign says there’s nothing fishy about it. The mayor himself saying he had no idea that his own campaign manager’s PR firm was awarded an $880,000 contract to do marketing for the Memphis Police Dept.’s body cameras.

File Photo. In this Saturday, Aug. 1, 2015,  photo, Memphis Police Director Toney Armstrong, left,  listens as Mayor A C Wharton, right, holds a news conference at Regional Medical Center after officer Sean Bolton was shot and killed during a traffic stop in Memphis, Tenn.  (Mark Weber/The Commercial Appeal via AP)
File Photo. In this Saturday, Aug. 1, 2015, photo, Memphis Police Director Toney Armstrong, left, listens as Mayor A C Wharton, right, holds a news conference at Regional Medical Center after officer Sean Bolton was shot and killed during a traffic stop in Memphis, Tenn. (Mark Weber/The Commercial Appeal via AP)

The mayor insists there was nothing shady going on, that there was a third party vendor who awarded the contract. “The bottom line — it was a private contract which did not come to my attention at all,” Wharton told WREG.

But still it seemed unusual that the mayor didn’t know the details of the contract, since he did have to sign it.  Mayor Wharton told a local reporter that it was drafted by outside attorneys, so he didn’t have specific details. When the reporter pressed for more answers, the mayor just said, “Once I find out more about it, I’ll be glad to talk with you more about it.”

TASER Int’l hired Deidre Malone’s PR firm, the Carter-Malone Group, after winning the city’s $4.5 million contract.

News Channel 3 reported that candidates at the NAACP’s mayoral forum criticized the fact that Malone placed a bid for the contract while running Wharton’s campaign.

“As mayor, even if it’s their decision, you’re signing a multimillion-dollar contract with the City of Memphis,” Councilman Harold Collins said. “You have to make sure all the participation is above board and without reproach.”

Representatives from TASER said, in response to the story, that Malone’s firm was the “best choice for the job.”

Carter-Malone was hired to put the message out, for the length of the five-year contact, about why body cams are important and about how the public can use them to keep police accountable.

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