published Tuesday, September 7th, 2010

Judge’s ruling halts recall

by Dan Whisenhunt

A judge Tuesday blocked a recall effort against Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield, giving the mayor some breathing room while his opponents figure out their next move.

Circuit Judge Jeff Hollingsworth ruled on a number of points and prevented Littlefield’s recall from appearing on the Nov. 2 ballot.

Hollingsworth said state law governs the recall process locally and trumps the city’s charter, meaning petitioners needed nearly 15,000 valid signatures.

About 9,000 signatures were verified by the Hamilton County Election Commission. The judge also ruled that more than 5,000 of those signatures did not count because they were not dated as required by law.

Recall opponents said the judge’s decision came down to a technicality and that they received bad advice from the Hamilton County Election Commission.

Hollingsworth reminded people in the hearing that he was merely settling legal questions raised by Littlefield’s suit.

“This is not about whether or not citizens have the right to recall elected officials,” Hollingsworth said. “They do. That is clear under the law. This is also not about whether there are grounds to recall Mayor Littlefield. That’s not for me to decide.”

Hollingsworth found the city of Chattanooga did not change the number of signatures required for a recall after 1997, as required by state law; that means state law became the final word on the number of signatures needed.

about Dan Whisenhunt...

Dan Whisenhunt covers Hamilton County government for the Times Free Press. A native of Mobile, Ala., Dan earned a degree in broadcast journalism from the University of Alabama. He won first place for best in-depth news coverage in the 2010 Alabama Press Association contest; the FOI-First Amendment Award in the 2007 Alabama Press Association contest; first place for best public service story in the Alabama AP Managing Editors contest in 2009 for economic coverage; and ...

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harrystatel said...

St. Peter comes to Earth looking for a psychiatrist. He finds Dr. Johnson and asks for help.

“What can I do for you?” asked the doctor.

“It’s God.” said St. Peter. “He’s become unbearable. He’s aloof, demanding, power-hungry, and thinks He’s omnipotent and He’s having delusions of grandeur.

“What’s His problem?” asked Dr. Johnson

St. Peter replied, “He thinks He’s a judge.”

Harry Statel

September 7, 2010 at 2:55 p.m.
alohaboy said...

The judge was correct in his ruling but this does go to show that the system is stacked against the little guy.

September 7, 2010 at 3:35 p.m.
Tax_Payer said...

Wow, Chattanooga is really corrupt! I cannot wait to move the heck out of here!

September 7, 2010 at 4:09 p.m.
eeeeeek said...

I cannot agree with you more Tax_Payer... I can't wait for you to move out of here also

September 7, 2010 at 4:59 p.m.

The election commission, whose job it is to validate and count each signature, did so last week and approved the recall. So how does a judge then determine differently just by hearing statements from lawyers?

September 7, 2010 at 5:35 p.m.
harrystatel said...

When you have a judge like Hollingsworth hearing the case, that's what you get.

This is the Judge who restored Ward Cruthfield's full citizenship with these words, "he [Ward Crutchfield] shows the character of a person of honesty, respectability and veracity."

What else can be said?

Harry Statel

September 7, 2010 at 5:44 p.m.
pgoldberg said...

I will never tire of the hard-hitting, in-depth reporting of the local media.

September 7, 2010 at 5:48 p.m.
Philalethes said...

To tax_payer and eeeeek: don't let the door hit you in the

September 7, 2010 at 8:45 p.m.
fairmon said...

A judges opinion wieghs more than the opinion of 15,000 citizens but his opinion is not necessarily correct.

Being a judge does not always equal or assure the use of good judgement.

The date should be a mute issue since the petition was not approved and available before the time frame allowed to gather signatures.

Makes one wonder if the mayor was successful in advising this judge as to the ruling he should issue?

Hold on to your wallet, mayor Littlemind has been released with no monitors or restraints. A deranged, power hungry, insensitive individual can be dangerous to 15,000 angry, narrow minded on the fringe citizens.

September 7, 2010 at 8:46 p.m.
BGBarkley said...

Now hold on one second, I was there in the court room for the decision. Read the statements by on other news sources, read why it was denied before basing your decisions. Notice on the other news sites the Tea partiers and these other groups blame the faulty information from the Electoral commission for this failure. He followed the letter of the law not even the Tea Partiers are not disputing that.

September 7, 2010 at 9:45 p.m.
memphisexile said...

This is not about the judge's opinion.

The law is the law.

It is clearly stated in state law that you need 15000 signatures and you need dates. The fact that these people wanting a recall didn't think to go check if there was any conflicting state law before they expended so much effort should point out how smart they are.

It would have taken one consultation with a lawyer to figure this out.

September 7, 2010 at 10:38 p.m.
jfinnell said...

This is disgusting... he was elected to represent the wishes of the people, he failed to do so and therefore the people of Chattanooga have chosen to relinquish him of his duties. This all seems very cut and dry to me.

This judge, and his ruling, are a farce.

September 7, 2010 at 11:12 p.m.
Amos_Ives_Root said...

"We're taxed enough already!" they cry.

"By whom?" I wonder.

The national government is out of control. However, it does not follow that Chattanooga is spending too much money. In fact, the opposite is true.

How do can we be sure? Imagine a city that is not spending enough money on basic city services. What would it look like?

High crime? Poor schools? Unmaintained roads?

Most of us are inclined to support smaller government. I doubt many of us support anarchy.

The peril of refusing to spend money on city services can be found in East Ridge. This city rejected matching federal funds for a levee, intending to save money. Subsequently, East Ridge flooded multiple times and many businesses left. Property and sales tax revenue decreased and the city had to pay for flood clean up. Now East Ridge is sitting on a massive debt, exactly the opposite of what the people of East Ridge intended.

Likewise, Chattanooga cannot afford the mistake of spending too little on basic city services.

Good on this judge for upholding the law and preventing this illegal recall from occurring and wasting Chattanooga's tax dollars.

September 7, 2010 at 11:20 p.m.
jfinnell said...

Amos, Ives, Root...

It's called a budget, everyone seems to have one except our governments. All things you mentioned above are necessary. 4 IPADS for the IT department of the City of Chattanooga are not.

There are plenty of places where the city is wasting money. Littlefield's solution is to leave the fat, and raise the tax. UNACCEPTABLE. It's time for some accountability.

September 7, 2010 at 11:29 p.m.
tobiah said...

Yes indeed it is time for some accountability. Mayor Littlefield may have escaped accountability this time but not without the public eye being turned on him. After denying them their voice and instead of just running again in the recall he has only enraged them further.

First he ignores us about not wanting a tax increase or storm water increase, then he ignores us about not wanting to be annexed, and now he ignores us when we want a new election!

We want justice, we want government transparency, we want true representation. You have denied us justice Ron, you have denied us open records and a copy of the budget, and you have denied us of anything close to true representation.

jfinnell and amos nailed it. He has wasted our tax dollars and denied basic city services! (Spending $900,000 on boat slips while cutting 300,000 from the library budget?!?) I don't see how you can try to justify spitting in the faces of your citizens and telling them to go eat cake! You can't defend yourself against that.

Mr. Littlefield, We followed all the rules that were given to us and you still denied us a voice. You changed the rules on us and bent them to suit yourself! You have condemned yourself in the eyes of the people. You act as if God is on your side and you are invincible.

**In fact I saw the scripture with my own eyes that your wife was passing around in the courtroom today. 1 Samuel 8:7 "And the LORD said to Samuel, "Obey the voice of the people in all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them." Outside the courtroom I asked what she meant by that, and she told me that God had given her this scripture today and that the representatives of our government are appointed by God and there is nothing we can do about it. I have a witness who stood next to me the whole time listening to this insanity.

I thought that our ELECTED officials were anything but appointed, or should we throw out the whole voting process altogether?!? Does our community realize what just happened here today? OUR RIGHTS HAVE BEEN COMPLETELY VIOLATED!

Shall we roll over and admit defeat? Hell no! If you want to be Mayor so bad that you act as if it is your DIVINE RIGHT then we are going to make some demands. In fact we will be going out into all the communities to record the demands of the citizens and will bring them to you, broadcast them at you, and not let up until they are met. Our main goal is to improve and bring change to our community and you can prove that to us by not fighting us every step of he way but by giving us a hand and giving us back our voice.

September 8, 2010 at 1:37 a.m.
MayGun said...

i'm disappointed by how this news is being should read in the 2nd paragraph that the judge ruled in favor of state law because the language in the city charter on recalls was never validated...meaning we have empty language in our charter that doesnt mean anything because it was only amended never enacted...which is absolutely outrageous..we lost on a total technicality..the system was set up to just one could of predicted that..not election commission neither city council....the fact is absolutely nothing was clear.

September 8, 2010 at 2:41 a.m.
jimcarwest said...

The judge said that the recall failed because the city charter had never been "enacted," only amended. In 1997, the State enacted a law, governing recall rules for cities and municipalities. A city could change the rules for a recall through a referendum. In 2002 Chattanooga placed a referendum on the ballot to change two things about the charter, choosing to bring forward all the existing charter, which included a lesser number of signatures and number of days allowed for carrying out a petition, thinking this would comply with the 1997 State law. The City Council has since labored under the belief that the City charter was law. Current Election Commission officials informed the RecallRon effort of these rules -- 8964 valid signatures gathered within the 75 days of the recall effort. Petitioners abided by rules as the Election Commission ordered. Comes now the judge to to say that what was brought forward from the existing City charter in 2002 was not an "enactment" but merely an "amendment", which has no force of law. Further, the court accepted that all the signatures were gathered within the 75 day period, being authenticated by the Election Commission and by the court, but 4000 of them were deemed not valid because they did not have the actual date of the signing beside each name. Petitioners were told by the Commission in the middle of the effort that it was not necessary to cite the actual date as long as a signature gathered was within the 75-day period. Each petition sheet containing signatures was stamped by the Election Commission with the date when it was turned in. So the intent of the law, i.e. to guarantee that the signatures were gathered in the prescribed time frame, was perfectly satisfied. The Mayor's slick attorneys seized on this to cheat the people of Chattanooga of their voice in his recall. Last night in the City Council meeting, members were in a consternation. They understood that by relegating this section of the charter to be irrelevant and considered by Judge Hollingsworth to be an “amendment” and not “enacted” law, the entire charter has been irrelevant since 2002. In a panic they directed the City Attorney to rectify this matter immediately. The Mayor has not been recalled because the Judge deemed the City of Chattanooga to be without relevant law to guide its legal affairs. The Judge refused to hear arguments on issues relevant to the case until after his ruling in favor of the Mayor - this to add to the irregularity of the case. 10,000 Chattanoogans were disenfranchised by this ruling, but the Mayor is not off-the-hook. Already he is boasting that it is full-speed ahead with his wreckless tax proposals. This recall effort is only the beginning of nightmares for the mayor.

September 8, 2010 at 7:27 a.m.
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