published Friday, October 12th, 2012

Chattanooga City Councilman Jack Benson wants restrictions on boards

by Cliff Hightower

Chattanooga City Councilman Jack Benson suggested this week that members of city-appointed boards only be city residents or those who own property or businesses within the city.

But 24 hours after making those comments at a City Council committee meeting, he backtracked.

"I wouldn't be willing to have a hard-and-fast rule that you live in the city," Benson said.

He said he realized some boards such as the Electrical Examiners Board or the Stormwater Regulations Board require some expertise that may not be found in Chattanooga.

Mayor Ron Littlefield's administration said there's no reason a non-Chattanooga resident should be ineligible to serve on a city board.

"There is no requirement that a person be a resident of Chattanooga," said Richard Beeland, spokesman for Mayor Ron Littlefield.

Chattanooga is becoming more and more regional and talent lives in and outside the city, he said.

The issue came to light Tuesday when some council members questioned a mayoral appointment of Signal Mountain resident Lilian Bruce, a senior strategic planner at EPB, to the Library Board of Directors.

There are a total of 39 city boards ranging from the Library Board to the Beer and Wrecker Board to the Tree Advisory Commission.

City Attorney Mike McMahan said appointments are made in a variety of ways. Some are appointed by the mayor and confirmed by the council and sometimes the council makes the appointments, he said.

Some boards, like the Industrial Development Board, do require city residency, he said.

In order to require city residency for all city boards, it would only take a policy change, McMahan said, not a resolution or ordinance.

"The whole body will have to come together to decide," he said.

Council Chairwoman Pam Ladd said she thinks that, for some boards, city residency or owning property or businesses is "reasonable."

But she also knows other boards require technical expertise.

"I'm not for a blanket statement," she said.

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