Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield's 18-month recall election saga ends

Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield's 18-month recall election saga ends

February 12th, 2012 by Cliff Hightower in News

Mayor Ron Littlefield smiles while talking to friends in Judge Jeff Hollingsworth's courtroom Friday. Judge Hollingsworth ruled that the August recall election will be stopped.

Photo by Angela Lewis /Times Free Press.

POLL: Do you agree with the decision to stop the recall election?

An 18-month saga for Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield may have ended Friday.

Standing inside a Hamilton County courtroom, Littlefield said that, for the remaining 14 months of his administration, "we're going to keep doing the business of the city."

Circuit Court Judge Jeff Hollingsworth ruled Friday that an Aug. 2 recall election set by the Hamilton County Election Commission is illegal and ordered it stopped.

The decision comes after months of legal wrangling over whether the mayor should be recalled. The Hamilton County Election Commission and the group Citizens to Recall Mayor Littlefield can still appeal Hollingsworth's decision, and members have said they are mulling their options. But as of now, the election has permanently been put on hold.

Littlefield said he was disappointed to have spent so much time and money fighting for his political life.

"It's not the way I would want to [wind] down my term," he said.

City Council Chairwoman Pam Ladd, who has stated publicly she is looking at a run for mayor, said she felt relieved at the decision.

"I think it was the right decision," she said. "I think it's the best decision for Chattanooga."

Ladd said the controversy probably created negative perceptions about Chattanooga over the last 18 months. Now the city can look at its positives instead of its negatives such as touting itself as the Gigabyte City with one of the fastest Internet networks in the Western Hemisphere - hopefully a big draw for companies.

"I think it would have looked worse if the recall effort had been successful," she said.

Hamilton County Commission Chairman Larry Henry said the fallout from the recall effort affects more than just the city.

The city and the county must work together on economic development, so with the recall effort stopped - for now - things can run more smoothly, he said.

"I think it is done and now we can get down to business," he said. "We need to put it to rest and move forward."

The drama began when three groups - Citizens to Recall Mayor Littlefield, Chattanooga Organized for Action and the Chattanooga Tea Party - started a recall drive in the summer of 2010. Hollingsworth ruled that they had gathered enough petition signatures under the City Charter, but not under state law, which he said trumped city law.

The Tennessee Court of Appeals overturned Hollingsworth, saying he jumped the gun and should have let the Election Commission certify the petition signatures before ruling on their validity.

Hollingsworth on Friday took the same stance as his October 2010 ruling - that the recall must be conducted under state law, not the City Charter, so the number of signatures came up short.