Council passes resolution on mayoral vacancy

By Jason Miles - bio | email | Twitter | Facebook

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - The Memphis City Council has approved a resolution declaring a mayoral vacancy after July 30, the date Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton is expected to leave office.

Chairman Myron Lowery sided with every white member of the Memphis City Council Tuesday night in approving Mayor Willie Herenton's resignation.

The 7-6 vote followed an intense, sometimes contentious discussion.

"The resolution passes," Lowery said after the vote.

Those in the minority were not happy with the way the vote went.

"And I am going to encourage any council member or citizen of this city to file some ethical charges," council member Wanda Halbert said.  "Because this is totally outrageous."

At issue was the ambiguous way the mayor tendered his resignation.  There were also concerns about whether the council's decision would hold up if challenged in court.

"The last letter we have said I rescind everything I've sent to you," said council member Barbara Swearengen Ware.  "So, you have nothing!"

Verbal commitments from the mayor through the media, the city attorney, and a spokesperson were enough for those ready to rule on his resignation.

"It's his word it's his bond," said council member Jim Strickland.  "There's nothing in the charter saying a resignation has to be in writing."

"We're taking him at his word," said council member Shea Flinn.  "And how that is unfair to him is puzzling."

"His actions have been an embarrassment to this city," said council member Bill Boyd.  "And I think that should be said."

Some thought those interested in replacing the mayor should have recused themselves from the vote..

"And for them to vote on that is out of order, unethical, and I think we need to rethink that," council member Janis Fullilove said.

In the end, it's a decision with which the entire council must live.  This, in theory, clears the way for the election commission to make preparations for a special election.

Copyright 2009 WMC-TV. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.