published Wednesday, March 2nd, 2011

Bill to change county mayoral selection process would be unconstitutional


by Dan Whisenhunt
  • photo
    In this file photo Jim Coppinger speaks to reporters after taking the oath of office to become Hamilton County Mayor on Jan. 11, 2011.
    Photo by John Rawlston /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

County Commissioners this morning said a proposal to allow for a special election in the event of a vacancy in the office of County Mayor is dead in the water after it was determined the law would be unconstitutional.

County Attorney Rheubin Taylor said enacting a law to replace the current process, where County Commissioners vote to fill the vacancy, would require a constitutional convention. There hasn't been one of those since 1977. He was unsure if achieving home rule for Hamilton County would allow the county to call a special election in the event of a vacancy.

State Rep. Gerald McCormick had introduced the bill at the request of County Commissioners and Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger. Without reforms, a vacancy in the mayor's office would likely play out as it did when commissioners elevated Coppinger from Commission Chairman to mayor. That process was contentious and featured several split votes among the nine-member commission because Coppinger, as commissioner, could not vote for himself.

about Dan Whisenhunt...

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 ...

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