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Commission deadlock again

Gordon Boyd
Eyewitness News Reporter

CHATTANOOGA (WRCB) - It took them three weeks to choose Claude Ramsey's replacement as mayor, but Hamilton County Commissioners are trying to fill the vacancy that they created, by the end of the month.

There's a reason many lawmaking bodies have an odd number of members: so you don't have ties.

What happened four times before they chose a mayor has happened again!

"I think we're going to have a Vice Chairman in a few minutes. I think that's how it was, I don't know. And I hope it's not a tie vote," former Congressman Zach Wamp said to the Commissioners.

But, be careful what you don't wish for.

Four minutes later, Hamilton County commissioners spurn former Congressman Wamp's plea to "pull together and let's unify", and fulfill his prophesy.

For Vice Chair, commissioners Beck, Boyd and Mackey go for Bankston, while Graham, Skillern, and Henry vote for Fields.

"Okay, we have a deadlock 4-4. That's where we're at with it, we'll move on," Chairman Henry says.

They won't try again until next week.

They have better luck deciding how they will choose who fills the commission seat Jim Coppinger vacated when they selected him mayor.

"If anything, we've found out the last few weeks, it's that this is something you don't need to drag out," says Commissioner Fred Skillern.

Commissioners are waiting the least that Tennessee law allows.

They'll advertise, and start taking applications Monday, the Martin Luther King, Junior Holiday.

The deadline is next Friday afternoon at 4:00 p.m.

Candidates can ask to meet with commissioners, but only one on one.

"The sunshine law would not apply here. They're talking to the individual Commissioner, it's not a conversation between two members of the Legislative body," explains Rheubin Taylor, Hamilton County Attorney.

Commissioners have scheduled a forum at Hixson Middle School the 24th, so voters can hear from the candidates.

As with the mayor vacancy, only the commissioners will choose.

They'll try on the 27th.

"The earlier the better," said Commissioner Skillern.

But, as in the mayor's vacancy, they could run into a math problem.

When asked if there will still be the potential, with an even number of Commissioners, for a deadlock vote? County Attorney Taylor admits, "Yes".

At least three men already have said they'll be candidates, including Pastor Mitch McClure, former school board candidate Marty Haynes, and businessman George Patton.

Again, applications open next Monday, close next Friday.

Commissioners will vote in two weeks.

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