Memphis Mayor Herenton’s tied up in another scandal, this one involving a questionable land deal with a man that has received numerous no-bid contracts from the city.

Known as “King Willie” because of his tyrannical misuse of power, the mayor lives in a $529,400 house at 5281 Horn Lake Road, a rather nice neighborhood. Here’s an aerial view of his 5 bedroom, 4 full bath home.

He also owns an adjoining lot at the corner of Horn Lake and Dubois Drive, which has been appraised by the Shelby County Assessor of Property at $45,000.

In October 2005, Herenton sold the lot to E.W. Moon, LLC (view the warranty deed) for $50,000. Then just months later, in May 2006, Moon gave the property back. Gave, as in “for free”. (View the quit claim.)

Herenton is now building a home on the lot and sees “nothing improper” about the deal with Moon, even though Moon has received $702,000 no-bid city road design contracts from the mayor since 2002. (The mayor is the man that approves city contracts. As I understand it, the city council can’t do anything except make recommendations.)

Reached in his Los Angeles office, Moon said he didn’t give or loan Herenton $50,000, but said he forwarded the money to the mayor because he intends to buy the house when it’s finished. Moon said he doesn’t have a written contract on the house but does have an oral agreement to buy it.

“You don’t have to put everything in writing. We’re friends,” he said.

Indeed. And you don’t have to exchange money in the light of day, either. It takes really good, trustworthy friends to move money under the table. And this looks like a good way to move money under the table — only they got caught.

But so what? It seems that these actions don’t even violate Memphis’ ethics rules!

This is not the first time that this particular lot has made Willie money. According to records on the Shelby County Register of Deeds site, Herenton sold this lot to Joyce P. Kelly in 1996 for $35,000. Then in 2003, Kelly sold it back to the mayor for $28,000 — after seven years of real estate appreciation as high-dollar houses sprung up all around it. After all, it is located in Banneker Estates, a gated community that Herenton has developed and in which his own home is located.

The name Joyce Kelly is a familiar one in Memphis politics, as it is the name of the mayor’s girlfriend and sometimes fiancee. She first entered the public light in 1989, when County Commissioner Pete Sisson charged Herenton (who was Memphis City Schools Superintendent) with promoting Joyce Kelly to principal of Corry Junior High while she was having an affair with Herenton (Thaddeus Mathews has a scan of the story).