MTAS Attorney Says He Overlooked Section In His Recall Opinion

Friday, September 3, 2010

An attorney for the Municipal Technical Assistance Service (MTAS) who earlier said state law trumps the city of Chattanooga charter on recall matters ackownledged he overlooked a key factor in his decision.

Sidney Hemsley, senior law consultant, said in a letter today to election office attorney Chris Clem, "I do agree that the re-enactment of the city of Chattanooga charter after July 1, 1997, satisfies the 'contrary charter provision' requirement contained in TCA 2-5-151 with respect to the number of signatures required on the recall petition."

Attorney Hemley, in an earlier eight-page opinion, said those carrying out the recall in Chattanooga needed to follow the more stringent state law.

That would have required them to collect 15 percent of the signatures of registered voters instead of the city's standard of at least 50 percent of those who voted for mayor in the last general election. It would have meant about 15,000 names in the recall of Mayor Ron Littlefield as opposed to fewer than 9,000 under the city charter.

The opinion was requested by Council Chairman Manny Rico, who is one of the recall targets.

Attorney Hemsley also said in the letter to attorney Clem, "I relied on the historical citations contained at the end of the recall provision in Section 3.18 of the Chattanooga city charter without further ensuring that there had been no re-enactments of that charter since 1997, a mistake worse in view of the fact that I had the Chattanooga Municipal Code in front of me, which contained the charter and information regarding updates to the charter since Brown v. Board of Commissioners, a case with which I was already familiar.

"I apologize for any consternation my opinion caused to the government and people of Chattanooga and the Hamilton County Election Commission with respect to the mathematical requirements for the recall petition, and I do appreciate your calling the charter re-enactment to my attention."

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