published Wednesday, November 23rd, 2011

Chattanooga City Council won't hire recall attorney

by Chris Carroll
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Should Chattanooga's mayor be removed from office until a recall election?

The Chattanooga City Council on Tuesday decided against hiring an outside attorney to advise them on whether to remove Mayor Ron Littlefield from office.

Councilwoman Deborah Scott indicated she would support hiring outside counsel during the council's Legal and Legislative Committee meeting, when she said City Attorney Mike McMahan wasn't "independent of what's happened in the past."

"It would give me more confidence that we have done this objectively," she said.

Chattanooga Tea Party member Larry Grohn backed up Scott's concerns during a public comment period.

"The city attorney represented Ron Littlefield in front of the Court of Appeals," he said. "Not the City Council, and not the citizens of Chattanooga."

McMahan said he had no issue with the council hiring another attorney, but Councilmen Jack Benson and Manny Rico opposed the measure along with five other council members who didn't second Scott's motion when the time came.

"We need some directions with authority," Benson said. "Let it rest until we get a court order."

Hal North, an attorney for Littlefield, said Monday he was prepared to ask a Circuit Court judge to issue an injunction if the council attempted to oust Littlefield from office.

Asked if North had filed anything Tuesday, McMahan said, "Not to my knowledge." Littlefield briefly appeared at Tuesday night's council meeting to present awards to city employees.

Recall fever once again swept Chattanooga last week after the Hamilton County Election Commission certified 9,600 recall petitions and scheduled an election for Aug. 2, 2012.

The decision followed a state Court of Appeals ruling that said the commission should have had a chance to certify petitions last year. A local Circuit Court judge stopped the certification at the time.

Throughout the spring of 2010, Chattanooga Organized for Action, Citizens to Recall Mayor Littlefield and the Chattanooga Tea Party collected more than 15,000 signatures and submitted them, citing gang violence, tax increases and a perception of City Hall corruption as reasons.

The groups gathered more than 15,000 signatures, and officials validated 9,600.

Advocates for Littlefield still maintain a conflict between state law and the City Charter on whether the number of petitions collected are actually valid. State law requires 15,000 signatures while the charter asks for 9,000.

Looking to the future, several council members on Tuesday said they wanted to change the City Charter section regarding recalls.

State law calls for a three-step recall election process -- certification of signatures on a petition for recall, a yes-or-no ballot asking if voters wish to recall the mayor, then a recall election.

The City Charter outlines a two-step process that goes from recall petition certification to a new mayoral election.

Both disputes -- the required number of recall petitions and the recall process itself -- represent the heart of the legal wrangling between Littlefield and the three groups backing the effort to recall him. The mayor has asked the Court of Appeals to reconsider allowing the election commission to act.

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dennis said...

This smells and looks like the good old boy's gathering the wagons to protect one of the own. Wounder what Littlefield has on Benson and Rico causing them not to due their duty. That's ok, both of them will have to run for re-election in the future and at that time the people can have our say. This has been one of the most ineffective council's under Littlefield's leadership. I can't think of one think that they have done to help this city. I know that they are going to point at Volkswagon coming to Chattanooga, but folks, stop and look at what they agreed to give away to Volkswagon for locating here. I just don't think that for what it costs the tax payers for volkswagon to get here, that we really gained anything. Hopefully in the near future,we will get a new council that wants to do what right for Chattanooga and not what's right for the current council pockets.

November 23, 2011 at 3:36 p.m.
jesse said...

shukin and jivin! peepin and hidin!

November 23, 2011 at 5:37 p.m.
lanaland said...

Hiring outside legal counsel to tell us what our charter says might cost more than just having a new election, prior to August. We've already paid a lot out to lawyers and courts just to get the city to follow its own charter. I'd like to know what taxpayer have already paid for the mayor to appeal, and delay, including the cost of the courts and the mayor using our city lawyer to represent him, not us. The charter seems specific that the chair should serve out the interim of the mayor's term following recall: Sec. 8.30. Succession to office of mayor. In the case of the mayor’s death, resignation, inability to serve for any reason, recall or removal of his or her residence from the city, upon such fact being certified by resolution of the council, the chairperson of the council shall become the interim mayor upon being administered the oath and making bond. Such person shall hold the office of the mayor on an interim basis until a new mayor is elected as provided in this Charter and qualified. The interim mayor shall have the authority to cast a vote to break a tie in the city council. A vacancy in the office of the mayor shall be filled by election at the next regularly scheduled election to be held in the city not less than ninety (90) days but not more than one hundred twenty (120) days after the vacancy is certified by the council. If no such election is scheduled, a special election shall be held within not less than ninety (90) nor more than one hundred twenty (120) days. The person so elected shall serve the remainder of the term vacated by the mayor.

November 25, 2011 at 3:20 p.m.
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