A group trying to force Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield from office argued its case to a state appeals court Wednesday morning, saying a Circuit Court judge had no jurisdiction to stop a potential recall election.
An attorney representing Littlefield countered that a recall election would have been illegal under state law.
Jim Folkner, with Citizens to Recall Mayor Littlefield, said the arguments presented by the mayor's attorney are just window dressing.
"No matter what we would have turned in, it would have been wrong," Folkner said.
Three groups -- Citizens to Recall Mayor Littlefield, the Chattanooga Tea Party and Chattanooga Organized for Action -- collected signatures last summer to force a recall election. The groups said they gathered 15,000 signatures, enough under city statute to force a ballot question.
Littlefield sued the Hamilton County Election Commission to stop the recall from appearing on the November ballot, and Circuit Court Judge Jeff Hollingsworth sided with him, saying recallers did not have enough valid signatures under state law.
Folkner and his group appealed and are awaiting a decision by the three-member appeals board in Knoxville.
Tom Greenholtz, an attorney for Littlefield, said the state statute prevails in this case.
"It's no question it [the recall] was unlawful," he said.
He reiterated that the groups did not have the needed signatures under the state law and said he argued to the panel that the Circuit Court has the authority to stop an illegal petition.
He said he would expect a decision from the appeals court within three months.
Chris Clem, attorney for the Hamilton County Election Commission, also made some arguments during the hearing.
He said the commission wants clarification of the state statute. He said he would like more interpretation of the law, because the last time a judge ruled on the statute came in the 1940s.
The law is old and flawed, he said.
"It's been 60 years since someone interpreted it," he said.
Cliff has worked for the Times Free Press for five years and covers Chattanooga city government. He previously covered Rhea County, as well as transportation and growth and development in Southeast Tennessee. A native of Maryville, Tenn., Cliff graduated in 2003 from the University of Tennessee with a bachelor’s degree in communications with an emphasis on journalism. Before coming to Chattanooga, he was a crime reporter with Hernando Today, a supplement of The Tampa (Fla.) ...
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