Officials debate validity of possible special election to replace Herenton - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Reported by Kontji Anthony

Officials debate validity of possible special election to replace Herenton

Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton

There may be legal wrangling over who should take over for Mayor Herenton if he follows through with his announced plan to step down in July.

City Council Chairman Scott McCormick confirmed Monday the mayor questioned if a November election to replace him would be valid in a court of law.

Meanwhile, Monday, former Memphis City Council member and mayoral contender Carol Chumney called for an amendment to the city charter.

"There are certain constitutional rights that people have to elect and vote on who they want to lead, and so I think the Charter Commission should respect that," she said.

According to McCormick, former City Attorney Sara Hall gave Mayor Herenton an opinion that says it would violate the city charter to elect a new mayor in a special election this November.  The opinion claims a successor must be elected in the next city election, which won't be held until 2010. 

It would mean CAO Keith McGee would serve out the rest of Herenton's term.
City Councilman Myron Lowery is also chairman of the Memphis Charter Commission.

"I think former City Attorney Sara Hall is incorrect," he said.

Lowery cited previous decisions as a basis for his opinion.

"Previous Supreme Court decisions have held that the November date would be a good date to hold an election," he said.

According to political analyst and Memphis Flyer columnist Jackson Baker, there is basis in what Lowery is saying.

"When Mayor Wyeth Chandler resigned to become a judge in late 1982, there was a judicial ruling the election had to be held," Baker said.

Chumney said the city's charter needs more clarity.

"This is a democracy, where the people get to vote and elect who they want as their mayor, and you can't take that right away from them," she said.

Lowery said the Charter Commission plans to explore clearer guidelines on how a mayor is elected.  In the end, it would have to be put to the voters to decide.

Click here to send an email to Kontji Anthony.
Powered by Frankly