Councilwoman: It's time to clear confusion on recalls - | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Councilwoman: It's time to clear confusion on recalls

by Melydia Clewell

Eyewitness News


(WRCB) - Chattanooga -- The most recent effort to recall a Chattanooga elected official exposed a huge flaw in the process, the ill-defined issue of which takes precedence, city charter or state code.

As petition organizers told Eyewitness News, recall referendums are a rare event in Tennessee politics. Local election staffs are well versed at running the primary and general elections, there is not an established state expert on the recall process. That leaves citizens relying on guidelines that may very well be ill-advised. As Chris Brooks from Chattanooga Organized for Action notes, "If you want to perform a recall in the city you have to go to the authorities that can interpret the law for you and that's what we did, we satisfied every one of their demands as they interpreted the law."

Petitioners say the guidance they received from county staffers had tacit approval from election employees at the Tennessee Department of State. And legal counsel with the state's Municipal Technical Assistance Service agreed that state law takes a backseat to the city charter's recall provision.

"The M-TAS attorney they hired said that was not the case, the city charter had indeed been passed properly and that city charter did take precedence over state law on this one particular issue," said recall organizer Jim Folkner.

Chattanooga council woman Deborah Scott says it's time for council to clear up the confusion. She told Eyewitness News she will push the council to begin a conversation that she hopes will eventually lead to the panel enacting a new city ordinance governing recalls. As she explains, "It shouldn't be difficult for the public to understand which (law) to go by."



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