State and city recall laws cause confusion - | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

State and city recall laws cause confusion

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Story by Fatima Rahmatullah

Eyewitness News Reporter

CHATTANOOGA (WRCB)-- The deadline has passed for the group, Chattanooga Organized for Action, to turn in the signatures needed to force a mayoral recall.

Last week, leaders of the group said they had collected enough signatures needed to force a recall, but they spent the weekend gathering even more.

Monday afternoon, they turned in the last list of signatures at the Hamilton County Election Commission.

City charter states that nearly 9,000 signatures are needed to recall Mayor Littlefield, but state law says they might need nearly double that.

The debate over how many signatures is needed is confusing recall organizers, city leaders and election officials.

"Streets don't pave themselves for free and police don't work for free," says Richard Beeland, city spokesperson.

That's why Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield proposed a property tax hike. The extra money will provide city residents with much needed services.

But the group, Citizens to Recall Mayor Littlefield, says this isn't the time for an increase on property taxes. Members say the mayor should be able to balance the budget without an increase and want him recalled.

However, the recall process is complicated.

Recall organizers were told they need 8,957 signatures. That's half the number of people who voted in the 2009 mayoral election, plus one.

But a state law says a recall requires nearly 16,000 signatures.

That discrepancy has people on both sides of the issue scratching their heads.

"We don't know what's going to happen, so there are a lot of questions that need answering in this process and I believe this week we will be able to ask those questions and hopefully have answers to them," says Beeland.

Eyewitness news asked what happens once the signatures are certified.

Hamilton County Election Administrator Charlotte Mullis-Morgan says the issue will likely end up in court and a judge will have to decide how many signatures are needed to force the recall.

A spokesperson for Tennessee's secretary of state couldn't tell us which law would takes precedent in this case. He said other cities have had recall efforts in the past that have been challenged in court. The court's rulings have gone both ways, sometimes for the federal law and sometimes for the state.

That means we'll have wait and see what happens.

Election commission officials will meet next week to certify the signatures.

If the group collected enough signatures, the issue is expected to be challenged in court.

That means we will be waiting for a judge to decide what happens next.

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