West Memphis Mayor Marco McClendon announced on the city website the hiring of Steven Jones as director of business and community relations for the city, but a recitation of Jones’ background omitted one point — Jones’ past state employment and a resulting felony conviction.
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The information the city provided for Jones, who’ll be joined by Tawana Bailey in the new city department, mentioned his past work as an officer of Southern Development Bancorp and work on a variety of public and other boards, including the Delta Regional Authority.
The account didn’t mention his time as a state legislator and later as deputy director of the state Department of Human Services.
Jones got a 30-month federal sentence in 2016 for pleading guilty in 2014 in a federal bribery scheme. Jones was charged with taking money from a mental health provider in the Medicaid program, Ted Suhl, for information about inner workings at DHS, which regulated his company. Philip Carter, a former West Memphis alderman, also was sentenced as an intermediary. Suhl was convicted at trial, but released early from his seven-year prison sentence when Donald Trump commuted his sentence.
The city release said of Jones’ new role:
The Director of Community Relations position will be responsible for conceptualizing, developing and facilitating the implementation of projects related to building better relations with our residents, business owners and collaborating with community support services and organizations, churches, and local schools. The new department is the hub for a more streamlined, coordinated community outreach effort, that will help promote city programs, and services throughout West Memphis and the Mid-South.
The mayor has not responded to requests for information on Jones’ pay and benefits.
UPDATE: The mayor said Jones would be paid $53,000 and receive standard city health insurance. As to his past, he said he’d known Jones for 20 years and knew of his many good works over the years. “I’m a mayor who believes in second chances,” McClendon said. “He’s paid his debt to society. Those who’ve paid the consequences should have the opportunity to be reacclimated.”
Jones was released from federal custody in December 2017 and a one-year period of supervised release followed. There’s no law against a convicted felon holding a city government job.