New Chattanooga City Council members getting acquainted

New Chattanooga City Council members getting acquainted

April 6th, 2013 by Cliff Hightower in Local Regional News

Three newly elected Chattanooga City Council members have been meeting, but they aren't technically violating the state's open meetings law because they haven't been sworn in to office.

Councilmen-elect Jerry Mitchell, Chip Henderson and Yusuf Hakeem said they've just been breaking the ice, not discussing issues.

"We've broken bread together," Hakeem said. "Just getting to know each other."

Frank Gibson, public policy director of the Tennessee Press Association, said that because the council members haven't been sworn in, the meetings probably don't violate the Sunshine Law.

"If you're not a member yet, how would you violate the spirit or the law?" he asked.

Councilman-elect Chris Anderson said he didn't know about any meetings and had not attended any except bumping into other new members at events. He said he knew of no decisions being made by the group.

Current council members Russell Gilbert and Carol Berz said they had not taken part in the meetings.

Councilmen-elect Moses Freeman and Ken Smith could not be reached for comment Friday.

Berz said Wednesday she would not seek the chairmanship, opting instead to remain chairwoman of the Budget and Finance Committee if possible.

New members said they don't know of anyone lobbying for the position.

The new council is set to be sworn in April 15 and have its first meeting April 16.

"We can't really do anything until the 16th," Anderson said.

Henderson said his main purpose for attending the meetings was to get to know his colleagues.

He said the council wants to hit the ground running. But he said he would rather not talk about some of the things discussed.

"I feel some of the things need to be kept in confidence," he said.

As far as lobbying for chairman and vice chairman?

"I would rather keep that in confidence," Henderson said.

Contact staff writer Cliff Hightower at chightower@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6480. Follow him at twitter.com/cliffhightower or facebook.com/cliff.hightower.