A Juvenile Court petition filed Thursday by Claudine Marsh, mother of Michael Herenton, a boy the former mayor fathered out of wedlock in 2004, is asking Herenton to put half of the lump-sum pension he received from the city in a trust fund for the child, who turns 5 today.
"We don't know what's going to happen in the mayor's future," attorney Patricia A. Woods said. "We don't know what's going to happen in little Michael's future. But we know that the little boy needs health insurance, and he needs it right now."
A Herenton representative said earlier Thursday that the former mayor wouldn't comment until he received the documents.
The complaint comes as Herenton prepares a run for a seat in Congress. The lawyers said Marsh realizes that some might see her legal action as a political ploy.
"There's no good time to do this to a man of his stature," Woods said.
Marsh is now living with her son in Cobb County, Ga., where she has relatives, and she's currently not working, Woods and fellow lawyer William W. Jones IV said.
The lawyers said in court documents that Marsh fears the child will receive none of the $506,845 Herenton got when he retired July 30 without a court order. The boy also relied on his father's health insurance through the city.
They seek an injunction to freeze the pension and an order that Herenton pay $250,000 into a trust fund for the child. They also ask that Herenton be held in contempt of court.
The lawyers said Herenton has been ordered to contribute $2,100 per month for the child, an amount they say is necessary to cover private school and other needs.
The court document filed Thursday says the November 2005 child-support agreement requires Herenton to prove that the child would receive a portion of his city pension. And it alleges that Herenton has understated his income by failing to disclose money from sources such as private real estate transactions and gifts.
The petition also says Herenton is supposed to take care of Michael 80 days per year but has never done so and that Marsh deserves extra compensation because of the former mayor's lack of involvement in the child's life. Woods said Herenton does see the child on occasion, but acts more like a friendly uncle than a concerned parent.
The court action refocuses attention on Herenton's unusual decision to forego a normal pension payout after serving as mayor for more than 17 years. He would have received $75,000 per year, surpassing the lump-sum amount within seven years.
There has been speculation that Herenton left office in midterm at age 69 to protect his pension. A federal grand jury has been investigating the mayor's business practices for months, but it's unclear if criminal prosecution would put the pension in jeopardy.
The story of Herenton's out-of-wedlock child came to light in 2005. He spoke about it at a press conference a day after The Commercial Appeal talked to Marsh, who was 31 and working as a security guard at the time she met Herenton, who was 64. The relationship ended after a few months.
Herenton, who is divorced and has three adult children, had already faced scrutiny for affairs with a principal and a teacher while he was Memphis City Schools superintendent years earlier.
I am pissed that Ms Marsh has the nerve to want more money. She gets $2,000 a month and still is not satisfied. She has the nerve to say that she wants half of his retirement money, what??? I ain't saying she is a gold digger but she is not messing with no broke guys. This is unbelievable, if they give her another penny more they are contributing to the obscenity of the games some women play... Stop the madness, and start cutting back on the amount of money that the women are getting and allot of these issues will stop yesterday.