01/23/2005: There are days I regret not paying closer attention to the local news....
Like when I stumble on a humdinger like this one: Sen. Ford tells court he juggles 2 families (registration required, or use BugMeNot). This story falls into my classification of "has to be true, because if you read it in a novel you'd stop reading it":
He keeps two homes and two families, alternating between two women whose children he fathered.I tell ya, there's nothing like being able to write the laws in order to make sure that you get the fullest advantage of them. Even better than being represented by a great lawyer.
This isn't the plot of the latest Danielle Steel novel.
It's the true-life story of state Sen. John Ford.
"I live back and forth,'' Ford testified in a recent court hearing.
Ford's dalliances over the three decades of his public life are legendary, yet the latest twist comes as a novel defense in a Tennessee child support case.
The Memphis Democrat heads a Senate committee that guides the state's child welfare policies, and for the past year he's tried to make use of a law he authored that keeps court-ordered support lower when a father is financially responsible for other children.
Yet not even a heard-it-all judge was ready for what the 30-year Senate veteran said in a Nov. 16 Juvenile Court hearing.Come Christmastime every year, being John Ford must be a real bitch. I'm not even going to speculate about Thanksgiving, Easter and summer vacations.... Though I suppose, if one of Ford's families were Christian and the other Jewish or Muslim, he might at least ease the holiday burdens a bit, insofar as he wouldn't be "duplicating" holidays.
Some days, Ford said, he lives with ex-wife Tamara Mitchell-Ford and the three children they had together. On others, he stays with his longtime girlfriend, Connie Mathews, and their two children.
This, despite a raucous 2002 divorce that led to Mitchell-Ford's jailing after she plowed her Jaguar through the French doors of Mathews's Collierville home.Ah, I remember this incident now (I'd moved to Memphis by that time). It's nice to know that the two women have decided they can agree to get along and share Ford's apparently impressive endowments (they'd better be impressive, for him to be spreading them as thin as he seems to be doing).
Ford said he pays nearly all bills for both families. They stay in houses he owns and where he also lives, though neither home is in his South Memphis Senate district.Hmmmm. So South Memphis is, in effect, represented by an "absentee landlord"?
"You have two homes?'' Referee Felicia Hogan asks during the tape recorded hearing. "Well, that's unusual.''Actually, the point is that Ford not only has two homes, he has two households..... but I'm getting ahead of the story here, actually he wants to deny that.
"Not necessarily,'' Ford shot back. "I know people who got five.''
Responded Hogan: "For child support purposes that's unusual, let me put it that way then.''
Ford is battling a suit by a third woman, Dana Smith, who is trying to increase his court-ordered support of a 10-year-old girl he fathered. Smith, a former employee under Ford when he was General Sessions Clerk, won a 1996 sexual harassment verdict against him.A household that encompasses two homes and two... um....Well, they're not wives, though one is an ex-wife. I'm getting the idea that Ford must be one o'them Old Testament type Christians (or a really, really reactionary Jew), since, really, the only word to describe this kind of arrangement is "concubinage". Unfortunately, that's not a legal status recognized by very many (if any) of the states of the Union. I'm reasonably sure that it's not recognized in Tennessee (though I'll defer the definitive answer to that question to someone duly admitted to the Tennessee Bar).
Ford contends that any increase for Smith should be tempered by his financial obligations to his other five minor children. None of those children are subject to child support orders.
In the hearing, Ford argued all five children live in his household -- a household that encompasses two homes -- and because of that he is exempt from rules requiring strict proof of his financial support of them.
For her part, Mitchell-Ford told The Commercial Appeal last week said she can verify at least some of Ford's contentions.Damn. Tennessee's own answer to Strom Thurmond?
Her proof: She is six months pregnant, and the father, she said, is John Ford, now 62.
"John is over here every single day, if not staying here,'' she said.Well, it's easy for Ms. Mitchell-Ford not to be confused. Apparently, she has only the one house and one ex-husband/paramour to keep track of. But really, you can't blame Ford for being confused. Two concubines, two houses, two households--minimum. Maybe more, since he's fighting off the child support case from the other girlfriend. And that's just the girlfriend who managed to serve process on him; there's no telling how many other girlfriends there are out there. And how "formal" those relationships are.
Mitchell-Ford said she and her ex-husband have reconciled, yet admitted it's unclear what that means for the senator's relationship with Mathews.
"I can't speak for him. All I can say is that I feel that John Ford is a very frustrated, confused man right about now. But there's no confusion as far as my life is concerned (and about) where he's staying.''
Hell, I'd be confused in that situation....."Hmmmm.. It's Sunday morning. Am I supposed to be with Joan and those kids, or with Jane and those kids? Or is this my day out with another girlfriend? And if so, which girlfriend?" I'm not sure my Palm has enough memory to keep that kind of calendar straight.
But of course, underlying this case, as every case, we have the question of... Money.
Ford's income has risen dramatically in recent years. Evidence presented in the November hearing showed Ford's gross income reached $356,899 in 2003 and $255,752 in 2002.I'll bet.
Ford said most of that comes from his private insurance and real estate consulting business, though specific sources remain a secret. At Ford's request, Hogan ordered state's attorney Joseph Little to keep confidential receipts and documented expenses Ford was ordered to hand over.
Disclosure "would expose all of my business interests and everything. It would put me in imminent danger of a lot of different things I don't want to explain in here,'' Ford told the court.
Keep an eye on this one, folks; it promises to be some world class entertainment. In fact, I'm expecting it to hit the FOX network next season. Maybe sooner if one of their other reality shows tanks...
Len on 01.23.05 @ 11:02 AM CST