published Thursday, January 17th, 2013

A departing political shot

When Mayor Ron Littlefield leaves office this spring, his legacy will be thin not because he hasn't had some good ideas, but because his tactics or presumed motives often alienate the people central to achieving his ideas. In other cases, he over-reaches to favor key allies and staff members. And sometimes he makes matters worse with his penchant for inflicting political punishment.

Littlefield's unachieved goals of consolidating key public services of city and county governments, or consolidating the city's and county's myriad water utilities, or improving city-county tax equity, make good examples of his flawed handling of worthy political and policy goals

Then there are his efforts to ram through controversial development projects -- the North Market Street Publix and the Chattanooga Village proposal in Hixson spring to mind -- or to protect or favor his political allies and staff, regardless of inappropriate circumstances.

His attempt in recent days to hastily install his chief administrative deputy, Anita Ebersole, as the City Court Clerk before his term expires, appears to fall into the latter category. Littlefield contends that he sought to place her in that job because it was good place to start a belated initiative to shift city offices to "paperless" offices.

That thin rationale, of course, predictably ignited some dissension by City Court's two judges, Russell Bean and Sherry Paty. At a City Council meeting Tuesday, they questioned why he had waited until the end of his term to crank up such an innovation; and why the City Court Clerk's job, which had been left in the hands of an "interim" appointee for the past four-and-a-half years at a salary less than half Ebersole's $95,000 yearly pay, would now go to Ebersole until she retires.

This wouldn't be the first time, to be sure, that an outgoing elected official has helped install a key staff aide in a safe, well-paid job before a his successor takes office. Yet Littlefield apparently didn't intend to make this a graceful transition. Indeed, he accused the judges of "unprofessional conduct" for questioning his plan.

In fact, it's fair to assume the "paperless office" plan fits a larger pattern of conflict between the mayor and City Court judges. Littlefield began advocating merger of City Court with the county's Sessions Courts after City Court lost constitutional jurisdiction over preliminary hearings for criminal cases in the city in the 1990s. That loss, prompted by a mid-term pay raise given by the city to then City Court Judge Walter Williams in violation of state constitutional rules, left the diminished city court with a reduced docket of code enforcement, environmental compliance and minor traffic offenses and accidents.

Some time later, when the city's new animal shelter was engaged in a legal contest with a pet supply outlet, Paty duly reported a call to her by Littlefield concerning the case when it was before the court. Paty subsequently recused herself and transferred the case to another court to avoid appearance of a conflict of interest.

Following that, an aggravated Littlefield tried to move the court's operation from the County's court's building, where it had security controls, to a vacant building near City Hall, which had none. The judges' successful opposition just further miffed Littlefield, however.

More recently, the mayor got CARTA to assume control of handling parking tickets near the Riverfront. The tickets are being handled by Republic Parking, presumably for a fee. And now City Council members, and the judges, have discovered that the ordinance they mayor got passed would allow CARTA (and Republic Parking) to further extend their ticket-handling jurisdiction.

No wonder Littlefield's attempt to appoint Ebersole as city court clerk -- she wisely declined to take the appointment Tuesday -- appears to continue the mayor's rift with the judges and City Court.

That doesn't explain why City Council chairwoman Pam Ladd refused to let Paty address the council, or why she cut off council member Deborah Scott, who raised the issue of Littlefield trying to "get rid of City Court." But it does illuminate what appears to have become a unending political grudge match, and why it continues so near to the mayor's departure from office.

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AndrewLohr said...

His 1st term looked plain vanilla, but he didn't run for re-election on a tax hike, a sewer fee hike, and annexation; and when the recall people tried to make him face election on those issues, he evaded instead of running. VW and Amazon jobs are nice, but how many local businesses could use the same kind of sweet deals he gave them?

Brother Ron, consider how libertarian our Lord Jesus Christ, the Mayor of mayors, is, when you look at what He says about politics. And consider that letting 160,000 people use our own brains, instead of you doing our thinking for us, means more brainpower at work.

January 17, 2013 at 12:16 a.m.
aae1049 said...

The tempter and conduct of the unethical Mayor Littlefield has become The code of conduct among staff. That's how they keep their job's they do as, no matter how unlawful. How dare Pam Ladd shut down a Judge from speaking or another city Council member. Pam Ladd is just more of the littlefield that needs to go. Don't let the Blue Rhino hit ya in the a,, Pam Ladd, cause your district does not want you back. You will see. Based on procurement data bypassing bids, I suspect the indictments will catch up later. These are folks enjoy a little to contract malfeasance.

January 17, 2013 at 12:59 a.m.
aae1049 said...

Forget the Rhino, that's the silly Dem Way of handling political matters. For City Hall, an R approach is preferred. Keep that ugly rhino. City Hall needs a complete restart.

January 17, 2013 at 1:11 a.m.
jesse said...

Littlefield seems to have taken a page or two out of P.R. Olgati's book on how to bilk the public!

January 17, 2013 at 8:37 a.m.
Handleit said...

If you look back you will see that the mayor has a long standing grudge against law enforcement. And this thing with the city court is not new. He is trying to shut both of them down. It seems that the mayor always has an axe to grind with anyone or group that can be perceived as a threat or disagrees with him. With shady deals such as the Farmers Market property in his past I don't understand why there has not been an investigation made of this mayor by state or federal officals. Maybe they too are afraid of him. As a side note I urge anyone voting in the Hixson area to vote against Ladd. She obviously likes the mayor and his plan.

January 17, 2013 at 9:15 a.m.
daytonsdarwin said...

"Mayoral candidate Andy Berke told the Brainerd Kiwanis Club on Friday, "We will reduce crime in our city."

Does that mean that Littlefield and the Crutchfields are leaving Chattanooga?

January 17, 2013 at 9:17 a.m.
John_Proctor said...

The editorial writer omitted the GropenFuhrer Paul Page story, another of Mayor Littlefield's many "gifts" to the city. Wonder how much the pending lawsuit is going to cost the taxpayers when the city loses the civil suit that is pending in federal court.

That's a really fine legacy for posterity there Mayor Ron.

January 17, 2013 at 2:53 p.m.
nucanuck said...

Littlefield did his best to undermine the people and efforts that brought Chattanooga from the southern backwater town of the 1960s to the thriving small city model that it had become when he entered office. He has done more damage than good, but maybe nothing so severe that a good new leader can't get things back on track.

I give Littlefield two thumbs down!

January 17, 2013 at 3:24 p.m.
daytonsdarwin said...

What I find interesting is that across all the political spectrum Littlefield was perceived as a useless Tammany Hall politician unless passing out patronage to his cronies, making backroom deals, and his inability to accomplish anything noteworthy. "Littlefield's Accomplishments" will be the thinnest book ever written.

The new standing joke for suspected political misdoings will be, "I smell a Littlefield."

January 17, 2013 at 4:34 p.m.
jesse said...

Yep Jon,73 last month!

I remember Dunlap, Rose ,Bender and all o them! Bookie hired me onto the P.D. in 1964!

January 17, 2013 at 4:35 p.m.
aae1049 said...

Did someone above mention Paul Page, well let's break out the old 45's

January 17, 2013 at 6:47 p.m.
MasterChefLen said...

After his term is up, hopefully Ron Littlefield's career is over for good. No one in their right mind would hire him, and good luck to any politician who would even thing about appointing him to anything. He is not even fit for worst of jobs out there.

January 17, 2013 at 10:15 p.m.

The list of Littlefield failures is much longer. The Farmer's Market and Unum parking lot land give-aways to his campaign cronies are two more.

January 18, 2013 at 2:52 p.m.
daytonsdarwin said...

From CNN News, January 18

Former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, who captured the drama of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 with an "SOS" call to the nation, was indicted Friday on 21 federal corruption charges, including bribery, money laundering, fraud and filing false tax returns.

Nagin allegedly defrauded the city through "a bribery and kickback scheme" in which he received checks, cash, wire transfers, personal services and free travel from businessmen seeking favorable treatment, the 25-page federal indictment said.

Among the conspiracy charges is an accusation that Nagin awarded "no bid" work to a city contractor who provided "concealed and direct campaign monies" to Nagin, the indictment says."

Wonder if the Federal Justice train will be stopping on Lindsay Street? Need to plan a layover of a couple of years.

January 18, 2013 at 5:26 p.m.
aae1049 said...

Federal gov sloooooooooooooooooow but surely the Lindsay Street Cartel is on the list.

January 19, 2013 at 5:52 a.m.
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