UPDATE: Still no County Mayor; Skillern resigns as Chairman - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

UPDATE: Still no County Mayor; Skillern resigns as Chairman

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CHATTANOOGA (WRCB) - Two sessions and four votes have yielded deadlocks in choosing a replacement for Hamilton County Mayor Claude Ramsey.  Another deadlock could give one candidate the job by default, which leaves the other candidate crying foul.

Hamilton County's soon-to-be-former Mayor puts it pretty bluntly, "I didn't have any idea what they were gonna do," Claude Ramsey says.

"They" are eight members of the nine-member Hamilton County Commission, charged with choosing Ramsey's replacement when he leaves for Nashville to become Chief of Staff to Governor-elect Bill Haslam.

Wednesday's efforts yielded 'almost' the same result as last week's; a 4-4 deadlock between Commissioner Jim Coppinger and mayoral aide Mike Carter.

The only difference; Commissioner Fred Skillern resigned as Chairman, rather than risk becoming 'Mayor by default' if Commissioners are unable to choose a replacement before Ramsey departs January 11.

"Family medical concerns will not let me devote full time to be Chairman and Mayor," Skillern told Commissioners Wednesday.  "I'd hoped it wouldn't come to this."

Skillern's resignation moves Coppinger up to Chairman. He'd become 'Mayor by default' if Commissioners fail to select a Mayor in a re-vote next Monday (January 10).

Carter has not returned phone calls from Eyewitness News. But an email, apparently forwarded from his campaign website, accuses Skillern and Coppinger of orchestrating a backroom deal to make Coppinger Mayor without a vote.

Coppinger has denied such accusations since they surfaced last week.I

"I look forward to working with the Commission, and I look forward to working with the staff of the county," Coppinger told those assembled in the Courthouse shortly after Wednesday's vote.

Coppinger tells Eyewitness News he was speaking as the newly-elected Chairman, not as the presumptive County Mayor.

The impasse raises a number of legal questions, according to County Attorney Rheubin Taylor.

Coppinger could remain as a Commissioner were he to serve as Interim Mayor, Taylor says, but he couldn't vote on Commission matters.

"The Mayor only vetoes. He does not break a tie."

Taylor has asked Tennessee's Attorney General for opinions as to whether a "Mayor Coppinger" should resign his seat so that his constituents would have a vote on Commission business.

"I will strongly advise him (Coppinger) not to preside over next Monday's Mayoral selection," Taylor says. "I don't think I can stop him, but it doesn't look good."

As of Wednesday afternoon, Coppinger had planned to chair that meeting.

Mayor Ramsey reiterates that he has had no role in choosing his successor. But he does have a message for Carter, Coppinger and Commissioners.

"We need a Mayor selected. We need to get on with the people's business."

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