The last opinion City Attorney Randy Nelson may give is the one on how Chattanooga will name his successor.
Mayor Ron Littlefield said this week he favors putting an interim attorney into the position to serve from Jan. 1 until after the March municipal election so the newly elected City Council and mayor can pick a permanent replacement.
But the city’s charter could say otherwise, Mr. Nelson said Wednesday.
“There’s nothing in the charter that allows an interim,” said Mr. Nelson, whose resignation as city attorney is effective at midnight Dec. 31.
He said he has not had time to review the charter completely and will within the next few weeks. The charter does not specifically prohibit an interim appointment, either, but states “Any vacancy occurring in said office shall be filled by joint appointment of the mayor and city council.”
The city’s ordinance to fill the city attorney’s position states:
“Any vacancy occurring in said office shall be filled by joint appointment of the mayor and city council.”
Council Chairwoman Linda Bennett said she could favor an interim city attorney until after the election. She said the language of the charter seems to allow for an interim selection.
“If the mayor and the council agreed on an interim, there’s nothing preventing that,” she said.
She said the firm of Nelson, McMahan & Noblett should keep working with the city during the interim because it has years of experience working with the city. Finding a replacement for Mr. Nelson should not be rushed, she said.
“We have a window of time,” Ms. Bennett said.
Councilman Jack Benson said appointing an interim attorney from Nelson, McMahan & Noblett also makes the most sense to him. With city elections looming, there will be some changes on the council, and the new members should have input on the permanent replacement, he said.
“I think that’s a reasonable thing,” Mr. Benson said.
Councilman Leamon Pierce agreed and noted that the interim time period could allow council members to look at other options, as well. He said he has suggested having an attorney for the council and one for the city.
“This would be a very good time to explore it,” he said, noting that this option might not be the most affordable at the moment.