Home Elected Officials Michele Dial Replaces Wesley Wright As Vice Mayor For Lakeland

Michele Dial Replaces Wesley Wright As Vice Mayor For Lakeland

City Hall. File photo.

At the Lakeland Board of Commissioners (BOC) meeting held Tuesday evening at City Hall a vote was passed to remove Commissioner Wesley Wright as Vice Mayor and make Commissioner Michele Dial the acting Vice Mayor for Lakeland. The Vice Mayor title is not an elected position in Lakeland, rather, the BOC votes who should hold the Vice Mayor title between the 4 elected Commissioners. Mr. Wright had already announced he would not be seeking reelection this fall.

The decision to remove the Vice Mayor title was made due to a violation of city policy regarding an event and subsequent contract with the Memphis Symphony Orchestra. The contract in question with the Orchestra’s “Big Band” was for an event put on by the Lakeland Arts Council, a private nonprofit entity of which Mr. Wright is the President, for a performance originally scheduled at International Harvester Managerial Park. The event was to be held at IH Park, which is owned by the city, and was executed and signed by Mr. Wright prior to the BOC officially voting on the contract which was brought forward as an ethics violation. After the error came to light Mr. Wright says he totally removed himself from the event, the original contract was voided, and the event was moved to non-city owned property at the Delta Blues Winery. The free event to the public, held on May 19, did require a payment to the Memphis Symphony for $15,000, which was paid for by the Lakeland Arts Council thru fund raising efforts, and Mr. Wright says at no time was city funds or city personnel used.

Commissioner Connie McCarter added the agenda item to the meeting on Tuesday and was originally asking for an investigation by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and the Shelby County District Attorney claiming it was a “quid pro quo” and possibly even attempted fraud. Mr. Wright acknowledged his procedural error in the meeting and apologized to the board for that error, but he contends there is no ethics violation, and this is simply a matter of politics. Lakeland Currents reached out to Commissioner McCarter for further comments but at this time has not received a response.

In the meeting, Commissioner Jim Atkinson said he did not see any reason for an investigation by the TBI but he did feel like a mistake was clearly made and because of that mistake the Vice Mayor title should be removed. The BOC voted 2-0 to make Commissioner Michele Dial the new Vice Mayor, a position she has held before Mr. Wright was named Vice-Mayor last year. Commissioner Atkinson and Commissioner Dial voted yes while Commissioner McCarter, who brought forward the original agenda item abstained from voting, as did Mayor Josh Roman.

“The efforts Tuesday night were a political smear campaign tactic to try and deter me from running for political office down the road,” Commissioner Wright told Lakeland Currents. “The removal of my title as Vice Mayor seemed disproportionate but I’ve been trying to take the high road and move on and do what’s in the best interest for Lakeland as I have been doing for a decade while living here.”

Mayor Josh Roman told Lakeland Currents it was not politically motivated at all. “To say this is political would not be accurate,” Mayor Roman said. “The facts are he promoted an event on February 27th that was not approved so we asked him to go through the approval process and then on March 5th he signed a contract pledging use of the Lakeland amphitheater (at IH Park) and pledging use of Lakeland assets without approval is a major violation of our ethics ordinance based on an investigation by the city attorney, who also serves as our ethics officer. This is what needed to be addressed and acted on by the BOC as a whole. I thought it was handled very professionally with the upmost respect to Commissioner Wright. The additional agenda item that called for a criminal investigation was quickly voted down and all members of the board, except the sponsor Commissioner McCarter, defended our friend and fellow servant.”