Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield handed second legal defeat in recall challenge

Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield handed second legal defeat in recall challenge

December 7th, 2011 by Cliff Hightower in News

Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield

Photo by John Rawlston/Times Free Press.

POLL: Should Mayor Ron Littlefield fight the recall efforts?

Mayor Ron Littlefield said Tuesday he would continue to fight even as the Tennessee Court of Appeals decided not to rehear his appeal of a recall effort trying to oust him from office.

"I'm with it for the duration," Littlefield said.

The mayor saw a second legal defeat in the last three months Monday when the appeals court issued a decision that it would not reconsider an appeal from Littlefield. The court handed down a decision in October, saying a local judge should not have stopped the Hamilton County Election Commission from deciding last year whether to certify recall petitions.

The election commission made a decision last month to ratify the recall petitions and hold a recall election in August 2012.

Jim Folkner, with Citizens to Recall Mayor Littlefield, one of the groups involved in the recall effort, said Tuesday that if the mayor continues to file suits and appeals, he does so in direct confrontation with the election commission's decision.

"If he goes back to court, he's not suing us," Folkner said. "He's suing the people ... the government."

The recall effort began last year when three groups -- Citizens to Recall Mayor Littlefield, Chattanooga Organized for Action and the Chattanooga Tea Party -- banded together and started gathering signatures for recall petitions. The groups gathered more than 15,000 signatures in the effort, and the election commission said more than 9,000 were legally validated.

But Littlefield took the groups to court in October 2010, and Circuit Court Judge Jeff Hollingsworth ruled against them, saying they did not have enough signatures under state law, which would require around 15,000 signatures.

The recall groups say the deciding document should be the City Charter, which requires only about 9,000 signatures.

Littlefield called recalls an "epidemic" that are going all over the country, citing mayoral recalls in Denver, Oakland, Calif., and El Paso, Texas, as proof.

"If misery loves company, I'm certainly in good company," he said.

Littlefield, who is personally paying for his legal defense in the recall, also denied reports earlier this week that he would step down to take a job at a local security firm and had handpicked state Sen. Andy Berke, D-Chattanooga, as his mayoral successor. Littlefield, who will be leaving Thursday for Germany on a business development trip for the city, said there is no substance to the reports.

Berke, reached by phone Tuesday, said he is not concentrating on a mayoral race and is more concerned with upcoming state legislative duties.

Hal North, Ron Littlefield's attorney

Photo by Contributed Photo/Times Free Press.

Hal North, Littlefield's attorney, said the mayor has a few options: appeal to the Tennessee Supreme Court, file another lawsuit in Circuit Court or do both at the same time.

The downside with the Supreme Court would be that it could refuse to hear the case, he said.

"Frankly, I expect them to say that," he said.

Because the Court of Appeals already made a decision, it would be hard for the Supreme Court to want to look at the case, he said. There also would be a downside in filing a new lawsuit because of delays, and those would mean added expense for Littlefield, North said.

"We're hoping there are some things to expedite it," he said.

Folkner said he is growing weary of the court cases being brought by Littlefield.

"He needs to look back at the reason he was recalled ... and let the chips fall where they may," Folkner said.

Staff writer Ansley Haman contributed to this story.

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