Staff photo by John Rawlston/Chattanooga Times Free Press - Dec 27, 2010 Hamilton County Commissioner Warren Mackey participates in a meeting where members voted for their choices to replace outgoing County Mayor Claude Ramsey on Monday morning. The vote ended in a deadlock.
Hamilton County Commissioner Warren Mackey said Friday he decided to switch his vote from Mike Carter to Jim Coppinger for county mayor after Carter alleged back-room dealings in the contest.
"I was disappointed when Mike Carter charged the Commission with back room dealing," Mackey wrote in an e-mailed statement Friday.
"The mayor's office has to rely on the commission's approval before any of his policies can be executed. He [Carter] has created a wedge that will greatly hamper a working relationship between the two branches of county government, and I don't think that is in the best interest of Hamilton County. Prospective businessmen are reluctant to locate in communities where there is strife and uncertainty."
Carter made the allegations Dec. 30, saying there was a plot for Skillern to leave the commission and have Hamilton County Board of Education member Rhonda Thurman appointed to his seat.
Carter did not respond Friday to calls or e-mails seeking comment.
Coppinger said he is excited by the news.
"I look forward to the vote on Monday, and if the vote holds, I look forward to being able to unite the commission and citizens of Hamilton County," he said.
Mackey's change of heart could mean a 5-3 vote for Coppinger rather than a 4-4 deadlock.
Coppinger already was in line to become interim mayor when Claude Ramsey steps down Tuesday. Former Chairman Fred Skillern resigned the position Wednesday, and Coppinger, the vice chairman, took the gavel. Under state law, he would be interim mayor until the 2012 election if commissioners failed to name someone to the post.
The race has been plagued with allegations of jobs being offered or given to commissioners in exchange for votes, and conversations General Sessions Judges David Bales and Bob Moon had with commissioners on the subject were reported to the Tennessee Court of the Judiciary.
Some local officials and political observers criticized commissioners for not holding public hearings, including former Hamilton County Executive Dalton Roberts. There was one public forum sponsored by the Tennessee Valley Republican Women.
Commissioner Larry Henry was thankful Friday that this chapter in the county's history may be coming to a close.
"I'm glad that we're getting past the impasse on it," Henry said. "I think it's important that we come together and unite and move forward."
Commissioner Greg Beck supported Carter and said he won't change his vote Monday.
"That's the end of the story as far as I'm concerned," Beck said. "These things happen all the time in politics. If Carter stays in it, I'm going to vote for Carter. I don't see any reason to change just because somebody else changes."
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Dan Whisenhunt covers Hamilton County government for the Times Free Press. A native of Mobile, Ala., Dan earned a degree in broadcast journalism from the University of Alabama. He won first place for best in-depth news coverage in the 2010 Alabama Press Association contest; the FOI-First Amendment Award in the 2007 Alabama Press Association contest; first place for best public service story in the Alabama AP Managing Editors contest in 2009 for economic coverage; and ...