Recall effort now in waiting game

Recall effort now in waiting game

August 31st, 2010 by Cliff Hightower in Politics Local

Staff photo by Allison Kwesell /Chattanooga Times Free Press - Aug 30, 2010 - Chattanooga Tea Party members turned in petitions at the Hamilton County Election Commission. The tea party turned in over 1,000 petitions to recall mayor Ron Littlefield.

Petitioners handed in the last of their signatures Monday afternoon in an effort to oust Mayor Ron Littlefield and now are waiting to see if any lawsuit will take place in the matter in Hamilton County Chancery Court.

"I expect it will probably be in court," said Mark West, president of the Chattanooga Tea Party. "That doesn't have to be the case."

Three different recall groups - Citizens to Recall Mayor Littlefield, the Chattanooga Tea Party and Chattanooga Organized for Action - handed in enough petitions Friday to force a recall election or referendum on the city's mayor. But now it is a matter of legalities as far as when and how such a vote will take place, if at all.

WHAT'S NEXT

The Hamilton County Election Commission will meet Sept. 8 to certify the results. In the meantime, petitioners are awaiting any lawsuit that might be filed by Mayor Ron Littlefield.

BY THE NUMBERS

* 9,071: Number of recall signatures validated Friday by the Hamilton County Election Commission

* 8,935: Number needed to force a recall

* 1,226: Number of signatures turned in Monday

Source: Hamilton County Election Commission

Richard Beeland, spokesman for the mayor, said Monday the mayor had enough "resources and is prepared" for any election that could happen. He said he did not have any updates Monday.

"There's a lot of unanswered questions, and we'll be seeking the answers this week," Beeland said.

Election officials said Monday the Hamilton County Election Commission will meet next week on Wednesday and certify the signatures. The petitioners said Monday they had filed another 1,226 signatures gathered over the weekend.

Charlotte Mullis-Morgan, administrator for elections, said Monday the commission is expecting a lawsuit, and she also expects a judge to make some decisions on how the recall will take place. A lot of questions remain about qualifying deadlines for potential candidates, she said.

"By that time, hopefully, the court will decide deadlines," she said.

Chris Clem, the election commission's attorney, said there are a number of legal problems. One is that neither state law nor the city charter spell out the amount of time needed to qualify for recalls.

"They don't have qualifying deadlines, and there's no time for one," he said.

The ballots have to be sent out by Sept. 18, he said.

Another problem is that state law is a three-step process with a yes-or-no vote on the ballot followed by a special election, Clem said. The City Charter calls for an election and not a yes-or-no vote on whether the person should be recalled, he said.

He said those questions need to be answered in court.

"We'd be happy if a judge takes it away from us," he said.

Clem said one thing that would not happen is that the governor and congressional races are held up because of the recall.

Jim Folkner, head of Citizens to Recall Mayor Littlefield, said he expected a court fight.

"We've heard noises from City Hall," he said.

He said his organization has retained a "lawyer or two."

Chris Brooks, senior organizer for Chattanooga Organized for Action, said he expects there will be a court fight, but he said the "voters have spoken."

"We want to have an election," he said.

Continue reading by following these links to related stories:

Article: Recall election may offer quick path to office

Article: Recallers gather enough to force election

Article: Recall effort could be fought in court