Deidre Malone Speaks: Regarding TASER and the $880,000 contract

“Did I do anything wrong? No. Would I do things differently? Yes.”

Lee Eric Smith, lesmith@tsdmemphis.com | 10/15/2015, 1:45 p.m.
“Did I do anything wrong? No. Would I do things differently? Yes.”
With the high-profile last days of the mayoral campaign and the controversial TASER contract in the review mirror, Deidre Malone reflects and looks ahead. (Photo: Lee Eric Smith)

“The mayor wouldn’t sign this contract, because it’s my contract,” Malone said. “The mayor signed a contract with Taser. Taser signed a contract with me.”

In an email response to a TSD inquiry, Taser executives asserted that they were unaware of Malone’s conflict until she advised them in late September 2015. “Ms. Malone didn’t advise TASER of her conflict until after the formality of signing her contract,” the response read.

“Everyone (in the campaign) was like, ‘Don’t give up the contract,’” Malone said. “After that, I had no intention of giving up that contract.”

Instead, Malone says she offered to suspend executing the contract for 60 days, to allow the city to investigate it, if they wanted to. “I hadn’t done anything wrong, but let’s give (the city) time to do whatever they need to do,” Malone said.

But Taser was already considering calling the deal off – or, so Malone heard from sources in city government. She said Taser never discussed the matter directly with her. Still she says she reached out to try to help spin the imminent breakup in the best way possible.

“I said, ‘Let me write a statement, saying we mutually agreed to this. That’s how we’ll do it.’ They said they’d get back to me,” Malone said. “Them getting back to me was them releasing the statement saying I’d violated their code of ethics. I found out when the media released it. I didn’t get it from (Taser).”

On Wednesday evening (Oct. 14), Taser emailed the TSD its “conflict of interest” clause, which in part, reads: “Each of us has a responsibility to the Company . . . (that) demand(s) that we avoid situations where a conflict of interest might occur or appear to occur. The Company is subject to scrutiny from many different individuals and organizations. We should always strive to avoid even the appearance of impropriety.”

Not only was Malone concerned about the beating Wharton was taking in the press, she was angry about how the situation would affect her professional reputation.

“I couldn’t say much because it’s already (on Page 1) above the fold every day, leading every newscast,” she said. “I have a strong brand. Am I just going to let (Taser) do that to me? No. But I’m not going to hurt the mayor.

“So that’s why I didn’t say anything then. Because it was hurting him,” she continued. “I told the mayor, ‘I’ve worked too hard. I have a reputation based on integrity and this is messing with my firm’s reputation and my reputation. I know you don’t want this to be another A-1 story. So I won’t say anything until after the election.”

Wharton lost the election. Malone lost the contract. But as she looks back over the rubble, she said that the $880,000 Taser contract was not all it was cracked up to be – starting with how much profit the Carter Malone group would have actually seen.

“Out of that money, our firm would have made about $25,000-$30,000,” Malone said. “The rest of it would have been for informational videos, billboards, for creating public service awareness, radio, TV print. We really weren’t going to make that much money.”