I read Roy Exum’s editorials every day, and on most days his perspective is fair, or conservative enough that logic appears to be the driver. In response to the editorial today on the issue of the “The Mayor’s Distasteful Task” regarding the Recall of the Mayor and associated legal fees, I wish to share a few facts, data from the Election Commission, and my own perspective.
The recall provisions in Tennessee state law have existed for decades and are rarely used by the public. A chartered municipality or city may adopt their own recall provisions by amending the city charter through referendum, or as a question on the ballot for vote by its citizens.
In the state of Tennessee, if a municipal charter does not have a recall provision, then recall provisions default to state law requirements, but only if a local charter provision for recall does not exist.
The city of Chattanooga adopted and approved by formal referendum, or as a question on the ballot, recall provisions for elected officials at the recommendation and approval of the city of Chattanooga Charter Review Committee and City Council. Following city approval of charter revisions for recall, the registered voters of Chattanooga adopted recall provisions by referendum on the ballot. The same recall provisions that were approved by the appointed citizen Charter Review Committee and City Council. Bottom line, everyone voted to adopt recall provisions, so what is the problem here?
Interestingly enough, the City Council and mayor were purely satisfied with the recall provisions in the charter, from 2005 through 2010 with no objections or even mention, until citizens dared to exercise the recall provisions.
The city’s charter is our local government’s constitution, and exercising the provisions contained in the charter is at the discretion of the people, or citizens of Chattanooga. It is a comical perspective of the Littlefield administration that the citizens were somehow not allowed to use the recall provisions, even if they believe that a recall is in the best interest of our city?
It is a fact that the recall election was stopped due to a lawsuit filed by Mayor Ron Littlefield against the Hamilton County Election Commission Board, even before the Election Commission Board had formally voted on the measure to hold a recall election. If Mayor Littlefield is incurring lawsuit expenses, it is because he opted or chose to file a lawsuit to stop the recall election. Allowing a democratic process called election to proceed would have prevented legal expenses for all concerned. Mayor Littlefield filed the lawsuit to stop an election, and he is solely responsible for his legal expenses and a continuation of the issues he has raised, not the recallers.
The mayor’s lawsuit resulted in an order by a local judge to adjoin or stop the election before the Election Commission Board had approved an election be to held. I find that rather odd to intervene before a recall election was voted on and approved by the Hamilton County Election Commission, and before Mayor Littlefield had even been damaged by a recall election.
It is also odd that an elected judge would intervene in such matters that are solely under the authority of the Hamilton County Election Commission Board, as prescribed by Tennessee Code Annotated. These are questions that must be resolved through the Tennessee Court of Appeal process in the best interest of 10,800 registered voters that signed the recall petition. The signatures of 10,800 voters will be respected and justice requires that they be heard, not silenced in the manner they were.
It is a fact that no other elected person in the entire history of the city of Chattanooga has ever been subject to a recall provisions of state law or the city charter. The point that recall fears may be a bar to running for elected office is unfounded. The conditions that currently exist are exclusive to Mayor Littlefield.
The editorial also suggested that Mayor Littlefield’s recall defense is $100,000. This is indicative of extraordinary waste of the Littlefield Administration, and reminds me of the $328,000 website for one of many examples. As one of the fundraisers for the recall, I can state with all honesty that we have raised funds in $20 to $100 increments, and to date have spent less than $15,000. There are no rich friends to throw fundraising parties for the recall.
As a fundraiser, I must question why Mayor Littlefield needs such a large amount of money when the recall groups have spent less than $15,000. I have also questioned why a trip to appeals court costs $100,000 or $50,000.
I polled several attorneys, who advised me that the average cost from a circuit court complaint to an appeals court opinion is roughly within a range of $11,000 to $25,000, depending on depositions and discovery. In the recall case, I did not see any depositions or interrogatories in the legal filings. Who is the mayor paying $100,000 and for what? The recallers are doing heavy lifting for less than $15,000.
Finally, I wish to raise a few numerical points of the recall that are significant.
Point one; it is undisputed that over 10,800 confirmed registered voters in Chattanooga signed the petition seeking a recall election. It is a fact; there were more verified registered voters that signed the recall petition, than votes to reelect Mayor Littlefield in 2009.
In the 2009 mayoral election, the Hamilton County Election Commission archives report that 17,913 Chattanooga citizens voted in the 2009 re-election of Mayor Littlefield. Of the total 17,913 votes in 2009, 57 percent or 10,234 voted in favor of the reelection of Mayor Littlefield. Again, it is undisputed that over 10,800 registered voters signed the recall petition. The number of recall signatures represents 106 percent of the total number of votes for Mayor Ron Littlefield to be re-elected in March 2009, and 60 percent of the total voter cards cast.
In the 2005 runoff election, the Hamilton County Election Commission achieves report that 28,140 Chattanooga citizens voted in the 2005 runoff election of Mayor Littlefield. Of the total 28,140 votes in 2005, 54.11 percent or 15,224 voted in favor of Mayor Littlefield. Again it is undisputed that over 10,800 registered voters signed the recall petition. The number of recall signatures represents 71 percent of the total number of votes for Mayor Littlefield to be elected in 2005, and almost 40 percent of the total voter cards cast.
The recallers met the bar for a recall election, and 10,800 registered voters asked to be heard following the City Charter recall provisions. Justice demands that 10,800 citizens not be silenced. That is simply the perspective I have.
Thank you, Chattanoogan.com for providing a venue for community discussion.
Recall Fundraiser-Citizens to Recall Ron