Carter claims plot to appoint new mayor

Carter claims plot to appoint new mayor

December 31st, 2010 by Dan Whisenhunt in News

Staff Photo by John Rawlston/Chattanooga Times Free Press Mike Carter talks with reporters outside the Hamilton County Commission room on Monday morning after commissioners deadlocked on making a choice between Carter and Commissioner Jim Coppinger to replace County Mayor Claude Ramsey, who will resign Jan. 11.

More drama unfolded in the county mayor replacement process Thursday as Mike Carter, a candidate for the seat, accused the County Commission chairman of using a back-door process to appoint Commissioner Jim Coppinger to the post.

Carter, a special assistant to Mayor Claude Ramsey, also said there are plans to appoint school board member Rhonda Thurman to Chairman Fred Skillern's District 1 seat and Mitch McClure, a volunteer chaplain at the sheriff's office, to Coppinger's District 3 seat. Carter said he learned of these plans from sources connected to the appointment process whom he would not name.

"They're going to have to do it in front of God and the public and everyone -- pull this off -- and if they do, God help us," Carter said.

Coppinger said he had no knowledge of such a plan.

"I'm just looking forward to the process continuing on," he said. "I'm not looking at alternatives or deals or anything like that."

Thurman and McClure also said they are not aware of any plan to appoint them to the commission.

Skillern, who voted for Coppinger in a 4-4 tie vote on Monday, did not discount the possibility of giving up the chairmanship for personal reasons, but denied he would resign from the commission.

The scenario Carter described involves Skillern resigning as chairman and Coppinger, now vice chairman, moving up to that position.

Once Ramsey leaves Jan. 11 to join Gov.-elect Bill Haslam's staff, Coppinger would become interim county mayor if commissioners haven't voted on a replacement, County Attorney Rheubin Taylor said.

Commissioners would then have until April 9 to name a permanent replacement, Taylor said. He said he is asking the Tennessee Attorney General questions related to this scenario.

Carter said his source told him Skillern would resign from the commission before April 9 and recommend Thurman for the seat.

"Fred didn't want to have that stench attached to him. He wanted to be off the commission and let Rhonda make that decision," Carter said.

Skillern said he is not giving up his seat.

"I am not going to resign," he said. "I have never even considered resigning as a Soddy-Daisy commissioner. I am not going to resign as Hamilton County commissioner. I may or may not consider giving up the chairmanship."

Thurman laughed when told of Carter's claims.

"If I'm going to have a new job, it'd be nice if somebody told me," she said.

WHAT'S NEXT

* The Tennessee Valley Republican Women will host a forum for the two leading candidates vying for the Hamilton County mayor's job at 7 p.m. Monday at Red Bank High School. Hamilton County Republican Party Chairwoman Delores Vinson said both County Commissioner Jim Coppinger and special assistant to the county mayor Mike Carter have agreed to attend.

WPLZ-FM radio talk show host Jay "Jammer" Scott will moderate the forum. Questions or comments from the public can be e-mailed to jammer@953wplz.com or to Delores Vinson at dvinson90@aol.com.

* Commissioners will meet at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday to take another vote on the replacement for the county mayor.

McClure also said he is not aware of such plan.

"That's the first I've heard of it," he said, adding that he has supported Skillern and Ramsey in past campaigns.

Other commissioners also said they had not heard about the plan Carter described.

Taylor's questions to the attorney general about the mayoral selection process include whether the commission would need to appoint a "temporary commissioner" during the period when a chairman is serving as the temporary mayor so the chairman's district will have representation.

He also asked if the chairman still could vote on a permanent replacement for mayor once the chairman assumes the interim mayor position.

Taylor has asked for an "expedited opinion" on his questions.

Carter said he is in "disbelief" about what he says is the chairman's plan. When asked if he was still a candidate for the job he said, "You're doggone right I am."

Contact staff writer Dan Whisenhunt at dwhisen hunt@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6481. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/DWhisenhunt.