2 Democrats On Election Panel Say Commission Should Have Not Filed Countersuit

Walden Says Firm Decision Needed On Recall Issue

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Two Democrats on the Hamilton County Election Commission on Wednesday said the panel's attorney, Chris Clem, should not have filed a countersuit in response to the latest recall lawsuit filed by Mayor Ron Littlefield.

Jerry Summers, a commissioner who was the former attorney for the Election Commission, said, "I don't think we should be in that fight. I think it infringes of the appearance of us being a neutral and detached body."

James Anderson, who is also an attorney, said the Election Commission was "using public resources to take sides in a lawsuit."

He also questioned whether the filing of the countersuit was legal, saying it had not been approved by the full commission at a meeting.

Chairman Mike Walden defended the action, saying it was necessary to get a definitive answer on whether those involved in recalls need to get the number of valid signatures required under state law or the lesser number under the city charter.

He charged that the City Council has taken no action to clarify its recall provision despite an ongoing controversy about it that results in expensive litigation.

The Election Commission approved a motion in support of the countersuit, which includes a constitutional challenge to the recall law and brings in the state attorney general to the lawsuit. Mr. Summers abstained, saying, "The horse is already out of the barn." Mr. Anderson was opposed.

It was supported by Republicans Walden, Tommy Crangle and Ruth Braly. Ms. Braly said, "I have confidence in Chris. I don't think he did anything wrong."

Mr. Summers also questioned why the Littlefield suit named the Election Commission as a body and not the individual commission members. He said the latter method would have allowed commission members to have minority views put forth in the lawsuit.

He said the Littlefield suit was filed by the Chambliss, Bahner firm, which he said is the same firm that Mr. Walden uses for his Walden Security firm.

Hal North, the Chambliss, Bahner lawyer who filed the suit, said naming each commissioner "would have brought five more lawyers into it, and we don't need that."

Attorney Clem gave this timeline:

1. In 2008: Chris Clem hired to act as attorney for all election commission issues including all lawsuits.

2. On May 11, 2011, the Election Commission met to discuss the status of the case. The minutes on May 11, 2011, reflect that I passed out a legal brief being filed with the court of appeals. The commission then discussed the legal issues with me privately.

3. On May 12, 2011, I did, in fact, file a brief with the Court of Appeals raising all the constitutional issues with the approval of the election commission which had reviewed the brief the day before.

4. Aug. 17, 2011, Court of Appeals orders case dismissed.

5. On Nov. 11, 2011, the commission again met in private to discuss all the legal issues. Immediately following the private legal meeting a public meeting took place. In the public meeting the election commission voted to certify the recall petition and schedule a recall election. The chairman noted for the record (and in the minutes) that the election commission was , in part, making the decision based upon the constitutional issues (which had been briefed in May of 2011 and argued at the court of appeals and discussed in private legal sessions).

6. Dec. 16, 2011, Mayor Littlefield files a new case.

7. On Jan. 3, 2012, Chris Clem filed an answer to the new lawsuit and raised the same constitutional issue mentioned in May of 2011 and in November of 2011.

8. Jan. 6, Reporter Cliff Hightower interviews Election Chairman Mike Walden for a story whether Chris Clem had authority to raise constitutional issue “for the first time without having discussed it previously.” Walden shared with reporter the brief from May 12, 2011 and the minutes to the Nov. 11, 2011 meeting. Walden specifically told reporter all actions by Clem were approved.

9. Jan. 7, 2011, Harry Austin writes an editorial claiming “Chris Clem, the part-time attorney for the county Election Commission, gave it longer legs Thursday with his surprise decision - without the election commission's approval - to expand the legal conflict to new and novel fronts.”

Chris Clem, Hal North and Jerry Summers
Chris Clem, Hal North and Jerry Summers

Get Emailed Headlines From Chattanoogan.com; Like Us On Facebook, Twitter For Instant News

We send out headlines each day of the latest Chattanooga news. Our news headlines have links that take you to the stories with a click. We also send out special emails if there is a highly significant local news story breaking so you will be aware of it quickly. To be added to the email headline list, just email us at news@chattanoogan.com In addition, like us on Facebook ... (click for more)

Latest Hamilton County Jail Booking Report

Here is the latest jail booking report from Hamilton County: ARMOUR, NEAL LAVON  172 SIGNAL HILLS DRIVE CHATTANOOGA, 37405  Age at Arrest: 42 years old Arresting Agency: Hamilton County BURGLARY (GENERAL CATEGORY) --- BEAM, KENNETH HOWARD  2614 LYNDON AVENUE APT A 4 RED BANK, 37415  Age at Arrest: 49 years old Arresting Agency: Red Bank ... (click for more)

Do Something To Protect Our Children

It is unconscionable in this day and age that these children had to exist in such deplorable conditions and that an innocent baby suffered and died alone in a locked car.  Yes, there is blame and accountability considering this family had child neglect charges filed a few years ago (that were apparently dropped and expunged) and a large part of the responsibility should ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Not Many Know This

The best story of the summer – by far – came out of Panama City over the Fourth of July weekend when over 80 total strangers on a Panama City beach responded to screams. Two boys, ages 14 and 11, were caught in a rip tide and all of these “angels” quickly formed a human chain -- over 80 people with their arms locked -- to stretch out in the water, reach those kids and tug them out ... (click for more)

Thompson, Bell Win Scenic City Scorcher Race

Saturday was another record-breaking day for runners in Chattanooga and we aren’t talking about the heat and humidity. It was the third-annual Scenic City Scorcher two-mile race held in flat and fast Heritage Landing where 48 of the 120 participants broke a Tennessee state record for their particular age. Christian Thompson was the overall winner for the second-straight year ... (click for more)

Lookouts Rally Falls Short In Sunday's 6-4 Loss At Mobile

MOBILE, Ala.  -- Sherman Johnson hit a two-run double in the second inning, and Alberto Triunfel singled three times as the Mobile BayBears topped the Chattanooga Lookouts 6-4 on Sunday.  Trailing 6-1, the Lookouts rallied for three runs in the eighth inning but that would be all for the night. Lookouts starting pitcher Felix Jorge (8-2) was shelled for the second ... (click for more)