published Thursday, May 10th, 2012

No early appeal date for recall effort of Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield


by Cliff Hightower
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The Tennessee Court of Appeals on Wednesday denied an early hearing to permit a recall election of Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield.

The court brief states that Citizens to Recall Mayor Littlefield and the Hamilton County Election Commission should have asked a trial court, rather than the appeals court, to reinstate a recall election.

“I guess you can read between the lines and say we won’t have an election in August,” said Jim Folkner, of Citizens to Recall Mayor Littlefield.

Folkner, along with Charles Wysong and Darrell Silvey, filed a motion to expedite almost two weeks ago to expedite an appeal hearing on the recall. Circuit Court Judge Jeff Hollingsworth ruled in February against the recall effort and issued an injunction stopping an August recall election.

The recall effort began two years ago when three groups — Citizens to Recall Mayor Littlefield, Chattanooga Organized for Action and the Chattanooga Tea Party — began a petition drive.

The recall effort has been mired in court since then.

Hal North, Littlefield’s attorney, said Wednesday the appeal is “whimsical and nonsensical,” with a regular mayoral election slated just 10 months from now in March 2013.

He said the recallers sidestepped proper procedure by appealing for the appeals court, rather than a trial court, to stop Hollingsworth’s decision.

He said the appeals court probably would not hear oral arguments until around August. At that point, they have 90 days to respond, he said.

“We’re encouraged at this juncture to let the appeal go through the normal process and avoid the end run the petitioners sought,” North said.

Folkner said he hopes a recall election could take place in November. He also said that even though the hearing will not be expedited, the decision could come quickly. Within the court’s brief, it states “this court will decide the issues as expeditiously as possible following all briefing, docketing and oral arguments, if requested.”

“We are glad they want to expedite it as much as possible,” Folkner said.

Chris Clem, attorney for the election commission, said he filed a response to the request for an expedited hearing.

“My response to the brief was we had no opinion either way,” he said.

Clem said he just informed the court that to hold a recall election in August, a decision would have to be made by June 4. For a November election, the decision would have to be made by Sept. 7.

He also said an August election is probably out of the question at this point.

“I don’t see how there could be,” he said.

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