County Attorney Rheubin Taylor said William Cotton can stay on the County Commission even though he was arrested by the FBI on Thursday morning for extortion.
Attorney Taylor said, "He can stay on unless he is convicted or pleads guilty."
The county attorney said if Commissioner Cotton decides to step down, then it will be up to the other eight members of the commission to name his replacement.
He represents District 4.
Cotton was released from custody early Thursday afternoon. He rushed past reporters into a waiting van without making any comment.
County Commissioner Curtis Adams, who often sparred with Cotton, said, "I regret this happened. I regret it for him and for his family.
"We were political enemies for 12 years, but it was never personal. It was over issues."
Commissioner Adams said, "When something like this happens, it is a black eye for the entire commission."
Commissioner Fred Skillern said the arrest "is a black mark against the whole commission."
He said when he was chairman, he had been approached about E-Cycle, but "I refused to meet with them."
Hamilton County Democratic Party Chairman Stuart James had this statement:
"As chair of the Hamilton County Democratic Party I am once again deeply saddened to hear of another arrest in the Tennessee Waltz. The latest news of the arrest of William Cotton for taking bribes as a government official affects our community, our government, and both the Democratic and Republican Party of this community. It seems news of corruption affects our local community, our state government and our nation - particularly with yesterday's news of the indictment against U.S. Rep. Tom Delay.
"However, as I have said when I learned of the news to the indictments of state Rep. Chris Newton and state Sen. Ward Crutchfield - an indictment is a charge, it is not a conviction. Under our Constitution, all people are presumed innocent until proven guilty. The presumption of innocence is one of the greatest protections our Constitution gives to the citizens of our country. From William Cotton to Tom Delay the same standards apply.
"As we learn of this latest news, this is the time when the political parties of our community must ask for meaningful and enforceable ethics reform. As chairman of the Hamilton County Democratic Party I believe it is time for the Republican Party and our party to come together, to unite, and ask our governor, our Legislature, and the United States government to enact meaningful reform. We must take affirmative action to restore the faith and confidence that government needs from its people.
"As I have said in the past, an indictment does not mean you are guilty. If, however, an elected official chooses to plead guilty I do believe that that elected official should immediately resign. If, however, an elected official proclaims his or her innocence that official has the option to remain in office until convicted or acquitted. I do believe, however, it is important for an elected official to weigh his or her alternatives when they are facing the serious charges. True leadership requires decisions to be made on behalf of the public good, placing the public good before an individual elected official’s own welfare.
"It is time for local, state and national leaders to enact rules of self governance that have consequences if they are broken."