County leaders react to attorney's claim about replacing Ophelia Ford - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

County leaders react to attorney's claim about replacing Ophelia Ford

County leaders are reacting to a Memphis attorney's claim that the County Commission doesn't have the authority to choose a replacement for ousted Senator Ophelia Ford.

Memphis Attorney Allan Wade says when the Tennessee Supreme Court upheld term limits in Shelby County, they took certain powers away from the County Commission. Wade argued that case. He says County lawyers made an argument in the term limits case that might leave County Commissioners with their hands tied when it comes to filling vacancies in the legislature.

"The public needs to understand the implications of what the County has articulated and what has been approved. That's the law of the land as we sit here today and now the issue is what do we do with it," Wade said.

County Attorney Brian Kuhn isn't so sure, but this new twist could put the Shelby County Commission in an unusual dilemma. It has the potential to determine if they have Constitutional rights to govern Shelby County.

County Commissioner Julian Bolton says it's a double edged sword.

"Either way it will be an unfortunate meeting. One that may cause the Commission embarrassment," he said.

Bolton's one of three commissioners soon to be out of office because of term limits. He says we're now seeing the fallout from changing the Commission's status to uphold term limits.

"This is one of the issues that we were worried about when we filed the lawsuit. If the county commissioners are not Constitutional officers, more than just the term limits issue is involved," Bolton explained.

County Commissioner Joe Ford says he hasn't discussed the issue with his sister, Ophelia, but he wants to get to the bottom of it.

"Monday morning I'm gonna ask Brian Kuhn to give us an opinion on whether the County Commission has the authority to vote in a couple of weeks on the Senator for District 29," Ford said.

Meanwhile, his sister's attorney, David Cocke says Constitutional powers are moot in the appeal to reinstate Ophelia Ford.

"We're taking the position that the County Commission doesn't have the right or the power to vote on this, not because of any inherent power that they may or may not have, but because the Senate acted illegally to void the election," Cocke said.

The District 29 Senate seat could be empty for weeks before anyone has an answer, which all comes down to County Attorney Brian Kuhn after he analyzes the county charter and puts his opinion in writing.

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