Jim Folkner, left, leader of the recall effort of Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield, looks on as Chattanooga Detective Phil Grubb, president of the International Brotherhood of Police Officers, talks about the organization's decision to join the recall effort. Staff Photo by Tim Barber/Chattanooga Times Free Press
A group wanting to force a recall of Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield said Tuesday it is awaiting a decision from the state appeals court in Knoxville on whether it will overturn a Hamilton County judge’s ruling that halted the recall effort.
“The recall effort is not dead,” said Jim Folkner, with the group Citizens to Recall Mayor Littlefield.
The group held an impromptu news conference Tuesday outside the City Council building to outline its next steps in the recall effort. Officials with the local police union were at the conference and said they were joining the recall.
Folkner said the group plans to forge ahead even though the mayor only has two years left in his term.
Richard Beeland, spokesman for Littlefield, said Tuesday the city would not comment on the appeal.
Chattanooga police Detective Phil Grubb, president of the local International Brotherhood of Police Officers, said his group supports the recall effort.
The police union has had several recent disagreements with Littlefield, including the city’s decision to cut officers’ post-employment benefits, restructuring of the department’s overtime policy and take-home cars.
In March, the union bought two billboards in the city and put up messages: “Mayor Littlefield is too busy fighting police to pay attention to gang violence. And the gangs couldn’t be happier” and “Chattanoogans take gang violence SERIOUSLY. Too bad the MAYOR doesn’t. Mayor Littlefield: step up or step aside.”
Folkner said lawyers for the recall group filed a new brief this week with the Knoxville court over Circuit Court Judge Jeff Hollingsworth’s rulings to stop the recall effort. In the brief, the group is asking for a summary judgment on the case or an expedited hearing, he said.
The effort to oust Littlefield came to a halt in September when Hollingsworth ruled on the group’s petition, which asked voters if they would like the recall of Littlefield to be placed on the November ballot. He said petitioners had not gathered more than 15,000 signatures needed to force a recall, a number outlined by state law.
The group appealed Hollingsworth’s decision, but in October, he denied the appeal. The group then filed its initial appeal to the state court in November.
Folkner said the reason for pressing on with the recall effort is to set a precedent for the city if another recall crops up in the future.
Grubb said the recall effort extends beyond Littlefield.
“The recall effort is more important than just putting Mayor X out of office,” he said, and helps show future mayors and City Council members that a disgruntled public can stand up to elected officials.
Larry Grohn, with the Chattanooga Tea Party, said more people find themselves out-of-touch with Littlefield’s policies.
“There’s one continuous problem after another,” he said. “It’s like a tsunami.”
Charlie Wysong, also with the Chattanooga Tea Party, said he thinks the chances of Hollingsworth’s decision being overturned are very good.
“The closer we get to the [Tennessee] Supreme Court, the better our chances are there will be a reversal of the ruling,” he said.