Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield plans to take recall fight to donors

Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield plans to take recall fight to donors

December 12th, 2011 by Cliff Hightower in News

Ron Littlefield, City of Chattanooga Mayor

Photo by Patrick Smith/Times Free Press.

POLL: Should Mayor Ron Littlefield fight the recall efforts?

Mayor Ron Littlefield says he'll keep fighting recall efforts against him and plans to keep raising money to do it.

The mayor is facing increasing legal bills as his battle against recallers proceeds through the court system. The two-time mayor, however, thinks he can gather support.

"Even fans who aren't big fans of Ron Littlefield are interested in ending this for the good of the city," he said.

But the only two ends in sight at this point are either a recall election in August 2012 or the regular mayoral election set for March 2013.

The mayor has been in court struggles over the recall for more than a year. They started when he filed a lawsuit to stop the Hamilton County Election Commission from deciding whether to certify recall petitions against him. Circuit Judge Jeff Hollingsworth ruled in his favor and stopped the process in October 2010.

Two months later, the group Citizens to Recall Mayor Littlefield, one of the groups involved in the recall, filed an appeal with the Tennessee Court of Appeals. The state court decided last month that the election commission should have had a chance to ratify the petitions.

With that ruling in hand, the commission certified the petitions last month and set the recall election for August 2012.

Littlefield filed an appeal on the election commission's actions to the state Court of Appeals, but it turned down rehearing the case.

The mayor faces the possible recall election after three groups -- Citizens to Recall Mayor Littlefield, Chattanooga Tea Party and Chattanooga Organized for Action -- started a petition drive last summer. The groups collected more than 15,000 signatures and the election commission ratified more than 9,000.

But Littlefield, whose only income is his annual mayoral pay of $146,000, will have to go with his hand out to past and possibly future donors to continue his legal battle. The mayor has said he's not a "wealthy man."

"It certainly doesn't make me happy," he said. "I'll have to go out and raise money again."

Jim Folkner, with Citizens to Recall Mayor Littlefield, said Littlefield doesn't have to fight the recall. The mayor could spend the money on a campaign to keep his job, he said, and Littlefield is the "one who keeps going back to court."

"He doesn't have to spend a dime," Folkner said. "It's his choice."

Littlefield has already held one fundraiser, an event in September at the home of Capital Ford dealership owner Bob McKamey. Patrons were charged $250 for dinner and a movie detailing recall efforts across the country.

The mayor has not announced how much money was raised at the event.

A poll of some past donors to his re-election campaign in 2009 shows a mixed bag of support.

Fletcher Bright, owner of Fletcher Bright Realty and fiddle player for the Dismembered Tennesseans band, contributed $1,000 to Littlefield's re-election, the highest amount allowed. Bright said he also contributed to the mayor's legal defense and may do so again.

"I think a recall is a pretty stringent penalty," Bright said. "I don't see what he's done ... I'd probably give him some more money. I feel sorry for him."

Recallers have said they started the process due to an increase in stormwater fees, property taxes and gang violence in the city.

Bernard Gloster, of Hixson, said he contributed $1,000 to Littlefield's re-election, but he's not going to give to the legal fund. Littlefield's legal troubles have left him balking at giving anymore out of his paycheck, Gloster said.

"I'd have to see where it goes," he said.

Local sculptor John Henry, who gave $1,000 to the mayor's re-election campaign, said he hasn't been asked to contribute for the legal defense. He said he thinks the mayor has been "maligned" for no reason.

"Has he done anything criminal?" Henry asked.

But he said he is also leery of any recall election in August 2012 and that anyone who runs against Littlefield is simply a part of the recall.

"I would just see that as part of the obstructive process," he said.