New hurdle in term limits debate

A new twist in the battle over term limits in Shelby County. While the debate goes before the state Supreme Court tomorrow, it may actually last much longer.

The problem is that some early ballots have already gone out with county Commissioner's names on them. Now the Court will have to decide what to do about that. And at least one of the three who brought the original suit says - no matter what they decide - it's too late!

With Shelby County's legal bill in the term limits case at $56,000 and counting, County Attorney Brian Kuhn says there may be even bigger issues, because Commissioners Cleo Kirk and Walter Bailey were already qualified to run for office again and some absentee ballots have already gone out with their names on them.

"If they win the primary or they win the general and then the Supreme Court decides that they were term limited, then we're asking for guidance from the Court about what we should do next," says Kuhn.

Two years ago, long-serving Commissioners Cleo Kirk, Walter Bailey and Julian Bolton sued the County because - they argued - a term limits law, passed in referendum by 81 percent of the voting public - was illegal.

Last year, an appeals court ruled in their favor. Now Shelby County is taking the case to the Supreme Court.

Bolton - who has fought long and hard for this - isn't even running for re-election, instead aiming at a Congressional seat. But he says the fight is critical. "This is far bigger than Julian Bolton being a County Commissioner. This is about fundamental constitutional rights."

And - he says - even if the State Supreme Court rules that term limits are legal, they are too late to stop Kirk and Bailey from running again.

"There's no way that you're going to be able to say that those who have qualified for election, while the law is valid, are no longer qualified so I think that the Supreme Court has missed the boat for Walter Bailey and Cleo Kirk," says Bolton.

Action News 5 tried to reach Cleo Kirk by phone today about this, but we were unable to make contact. We did, however, speak with Walter Bailey, who was hesitant to weigh in. He said he thinks the Court will move quickly and that he hopes the ruling - in favor of the three Commissioners - will be upheld.