He ran for the Shelby County Board of Commissioners five years ago on the slogan "It's time for government to mean business." And Bruce Thompson's campaign literature pledged, "I believe public officials should use their position to save money for the taxpayers, not make money for themselves."
It was a not-so-subtle reminder that the Democratic nominee he was running against, former County Commissioner Joe Cooper, had gone to prison in the 1970s on a federal bank fraud charge.
Thompson, the Republican nominee, won the 2002 general election for County Commission District 5 and served one four-year term.
The indictment alleges that Thompson used his position on the commission to extort a total of $270,750 from H&M Construction Co. Inc. and Salton-Fox Construction Co. LLC Joint Venture.
The companies had joined together starting in late 2004 seeking the contract to build three new Memphis city schools. They hired Thompson as a consultant for that effort. They got the contract worth nearly $47 million.
The indictment alleges that Thompson "would falsely represent to representatives of the joint venture ... that by reason of his position as a Shelby County commissioner, he had the ability to control the votes of members of the Memphis City School Board, in connection with the awarding of" the contract for the three schools. Thompson also, according to the indictment, "would falsely represent ... that he had made commitments to give campaign contributions to certain members of the Memphis City School Board."
The alleged use of Thompson's public office is critical in the charge, which means it is a violation of the federal Hobbs Act.