Chattanooga mayor Ron Littlefield seeks donations for recall defense

Chattanooga mayor Ron Littlefield seeks donations for recall defense

September 7th, 2011 by Cliff Hightower in News

Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield

Photo by John Rawlston/Times Free Press.

For $250, Mayor Ron Littlefield will set you up with a dinner and a movie.

And he'll pay his recall debt while he's at it.

On Sept. 15, the mayor plans to hold a $250-per-person reception at the home of Capital Toyota dealer Bob McKamey to raise money for his ongoing legal battles with recallers. It's all in an effort to pay off more than $50,000 in legal costs.

"I am not a wealthy person, but I do have a sense of responsibility to make sure that these costs are covered," Littlefield wrote in a flier announcing the event.

The event will include the short 16-minute film, "Recall Fever," produced by the U.S. Conference of Mayors. Littlefield is shown prominently in the film, along with the mayors of Akron, Ohio, and Omaha, Neb.

Littlefield could not be reached for comment Tuesday because he was out of town.

Jim Folkner, with the group Citizens to Recall Mayor Littlefield, said he was a bit surprised when he first heard the mayor was holding a fundraising event.

"It mystifies me that anybody would want to give money to stop an election," Folkner said.

Hal North, attorney for Littlefield, could not be reached for comment late Tuesday.

The mayor faced a recall effort last year when three groups -- Citizens to Recall Mayor Littlefield, Chattanooga Organized for Action and the Chattanooga Tea Party -- gathered more than 15,000 signatures that could have forced a ballot question under state law to recall the mayor.

Littlefield sued the Hamilton County Election Commission to stop the ballot question and Circuit Court Judge Jeff Hollingsworth sided with him, saying recallers did not have enough signatures under state law.

Jim Folkner, 59

Photo by Tim Barber/Times Free Press.

Folkner, with Citizens to Recall Mayor Littlefield, has since appealed, and the case is now awaiting a decision in the Tennessee Court of Appeals in Knoxville.

On Aug. 20, Littlefield sent out a flier saying his friend McKamey would be holding a reception and would be showing the recall movie. He states in the letter he will answer questions and talk about the remainder of his plans.

The literature of the event also includes a New York Times article about other recall efforts across the country.

Littlefield states he has established a legal trust to accept contributions and make payments. He said he has arranged for any money collected in excess of the legal fees to be given to the United Way.

He states in the letter the recall came from him raising property taxes and stormwater fees in order to maintain acceptable police and fire services and to address federal mandates.

"We are being punished for doing what had to be done," Littlefield said.

The latest campaign filings from Jan. 31, 2011, show the mayor having $32,700 in his war chest.

Richard Beeland, spokesman for the mayor, said Tuesday that Littlefield could not use that campaign money for the personal expense of fighting a recall effort. Beeland said the mayor has been paying on the attorney fees.

"He's incurred some costs and taken care of them," he said.

Folkner said Tuesday the recall effort was more than just about taxes and fees. Many of those involved said they were fighting what they felt was ongoing corruption within the administration and out-of-control problems with crime.

"He's going to some rich folks he knows to continue to stay in power," Folkner said. "It's sad to see money used in this fashion."

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