Former employees express frustration as investigation into Shelby County Landbank continues

SHELBY COUNTY, Tenn. — If you want to buy land from Shelby County, you’ll have to wait.

The Shelby County Landbank’s Office is under investigation following several EEOC complaints that came to light during the county commission meeting last week.

Several employees, as well as the District 10 commissioner, stood in front of the Shelby County Commission to address the policies and procedures of the office.

The commission unanimously approved a moratorium for three months from the county landbank’s office.

“I witnessed questionable, unprofessional, unethical, immoral practices by Landbank’s Office on numerous occasions,” said an anonymous former employee.

One former employee terminated in October of 2022 said working at the office was a hostile environment.

“I was told to tell the minorities, the black, brown, and Hispanic people, if they did not understand their contract to find legal. During that time, I was attacked, I was retaliated against. I filed so many EEOC complaints about the retaliation,” said an anonymous former employee.

Others spoke about revising policies to limit and restrict people of color and non-profits from being able to make purchases.

All of this caught the attention of Shelby County Commissioner Britney Thornton.

“When I saw those women being terminated, it was very peculiar to me. It wasn’t just one. It wasn’t just two. It was three then more started to reach out. It’s like they just poof, disappear,” said District 10 Commissioner Britney Thornton.

Since we last reported on the Landbank’s office in November, about half of its ten employees turned over due to terminations and retirements.

Commissioner Thornton is advocating for the employees who were fired and the citizens who were mistreated while acquiring land.

“You tell people we have a low literacy market. You tell people we are in an impoverished community, but then you put all this procedural red tape for people to get land. It just doesn’t make sense to me,” Thornton said.

Thornton said they will now lead an ad hoc committee to work toward researching and reforming the landbank’s office.

FOX13 reached out to the landbank’s administrator and Mayor Lee Harris’ office for comment but did not received a response yet.