published Wednesday, January 25th, 2012

Chattanooga City Council debates role in Littlefield recall case


by Cliff Hightower

The City Council decided Tuesday night that Chattanooga would join the lawsuit involving a potential recall of Mayor Ron Littlefield.

But a lot of debate centered around how the city should choose its stance in court and whether City Attorney Mike McMahan would have a conflict since he represents the council and the mayor.

Council members debated whether the city's stance should be to defend the existing City Charter or just ask for an opinion from the judge on how the law should be interpreted.

"If it's just 'tell us what the law is,' it's hard to see where there is a conflict," Councilman Peter Murphy said.

But Jim Folkner, with Citizens to Recall Mayor Littlefield, said the city should hire outside counsel, and he said he failed to see how the city attorney could go to a court case and not have an argument.

"I'm saying you have a charter," Folkner said. "And there's no need to send in a city attorney just to say 'Hi!'"

The City Council voted 6-3 to approve intervening in the case after Circuit Court Judge Jeff Hollingsworth suggested it in a Monday hearing. A recall election is scheduled for August, but a hearing is set for Feb. 10, during which Hollingsworth could rule on issuing a permanent injunction.

The council also decided Tuesday it would allocate $75,000 in city funds to a minority business development partnership between the Urban League of Greater Chattanooga and the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce.

Records show the Urban League would receive $50,000 of the funds, while the Chamber would receive $25,000. The Chamber previously had received $75,000 from the county for a minority business development program.

The City Council also approved 6-3 the second reading of an internal auditor ordinance that will appear on the November ballot.

City Attorney Mike McMahan also told council members the city reached a settlement with the family of Alonzo Heyward and would pay $33,000 to the children of Heyward, who was shot multiple times by city police and killed two years ago.

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