To: Citizens of State Senate District 30
From: Richard B. Fields
Re: Robert L. J. Spence, Attorney and Candidate in the Democratic
Primary for District 30
Date: January 12, 2007
My name is Richard B. Fields and I am a civil rights attorney who has practiced in Memphis since 1976. I have worked on cases involving school desegregation, racial employment discrimination involving the Memphis Fire Department, MLGW, and the Sheriff’s Department. I have also served as chairman of the legal redress committee of the local branch of the NAACP for over 20 years. Most recently, I helped stop the installation of a nuclear waste incinerator on President’s Island that would have spewed nuclear waste over South Memphis and downtown. I love this city and the people who live here.
The purpose of this letter is to warn the voters of District 30 of the danger of electing Robert L. J. Spence, Jr., to the state senate seat. Although I have championed black candidates for all political offices and have been a life-long Democrat, I felt compelled to write this letter because I have followed Robert’s career over the years and I am alarmed at the legal decisions he made and the resulting millions of dollars lost by the City of Memphis because of his faulty advice and his personal pursuit of wealth to the detriment of the citizens of Memphis. Ironically, I supported Robert when he was appointed City Attorney and signed a petition for him in his race for school board of the behest of some of my close friends. I now apologize to the citizens of Memphis and this letter is part of my repentance for not recognizing earlier Robert’s inability to work for the public good.
Some of the outrageous examples of Robert’s legal advice include:
1. Robert advised the City of Memphis not to settle with Bellsouth concerning a franchise tax that was declared invalid by the Tennessee Court of Appeals and review was denied by the Tennessee Supreme Court. The estimated liability to the City of Memphis could be as high as $25 million.
2. Robert approved a contract with the architectural firm hired for overseeing the Cannon Center construction who ultimately caused a cost over-run of $16 million – with the contract only providing for $1 million in malpractice coverage on a $25 million project.
3. Robert tried to get Mayor Herenton to sign an open-ended contract when he set up a law firm pending his retirement for a fee of $300 per hour for all outside work for the City of Memphis. The Mayor commissioned Lucian Pera, the coordinating attorney of the new Tennessee Rules of Professional Conduct, to review the contract and the arrangement Robert proposed. Mr. Pera found that Robert’s actions were a conflict of interest. The law firm was never formed, but Robert was able to retire with an immediate lifetime pension of over $30,000 per year.
4. An associate of Robert’s wrote in the Memphis Bar Association Journal about Robert’s involvement as chief negotiator for the City in the FedEx Forum contract negotiations where he allegedly worked for 4 weeks at 18 hour days to finalize the contract. We later learned that he approved that the City use $6 million of state transportation money for the bus terminal that was not built. As recently as December 13, 2006, he denied that he advised the Mayor to sign a contract that was in direct conflict with another contract promising the Grizzlies use of the $6 million for parking places. His signatures were on both contracts. The City has now had to defer building roads and streets in the amount of $6 million and the FBI is investigating the contracts.
5. Finally, after Robert retired from the City Attorney position in 2004, he began to represent RACE, a company who proposed to build a nuclear incinerator on President’s Island, blocks away from neighborhoods in South Memphis and a few miles away from downtown Memphis. At the same time, Robert was general counsel to the Riverfront Development Corporation whose purpose is to preserve and develop the Downtown riverfront. His wife Dorcelle, who also serves as an executive for the Riverfront Development Corporation at a salary of $100,000 per year, sent an email supporting the nuclear incinerator.
Fortunately, a coalition of black and white citizens from Downtown and South Memphis organized and stopped construction of the incinerator.
This letter is my own opinion. Since there is only one other candidate in the state senate democratic primary, Beverly Marrero, I urge all citizens to vote for her. This special primary election is on January 25, 2007. Early voting is taking place now.
I have always subscribed to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s powerful words that some day people will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. Robert L. J. Spence, Jr.’s character is flawed as he puts his own interests over those of the black, white, Hispanic, Asian, and other citizens of Memphis. I have taught my children (who are biracial and black) that when you go out in the world no one knows your father is a white attorney. You must treat all people fairly as you want to be treated regardless of skin color. With that in mind, if Robert’s children had attended the daycare that was within blocks of the proposed nuclear incinerator, would he have so passionately defended the company that proposed to put it there?
Please distribute this letter to your friends and neighbors so they can make an informed choice in the State Senate District 30 Democratic Primary.
Labels: Beverly Marrero, District 30, Richard Fields, Robert Spence