Memphis City Council meets for first time after walkout

Next steps if city council can't reach agreement

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - The Memphis City Council met Tuesday after a week of public in-fighting over the appointment process for a vacant council seat.

However, the four protesting members – Joe Brown, Jamita Swearengen, Patrice Robinson, and Martavius Jones – were not there.

The four walked out of a council meeting last Tuesday and haven’t been to standing council meetings since, leaving the group without a quorum of seven and unable to meet.

“This has been one of the most divisive appointment processes that I’ve ever witnessed – it created a level of division, it’s created a level of discomfort for us we’ve never experienced that,” said Chair Berlin Boyd.

Council attorney Allan Wade said Tuesday morning that closer inspection of the city charter led him to believe the group could hold a meeting and take some votes with six members, because currently there are only 10 elected members on the body.

“Mr. Chairman, it is my opinion that you do have a quorum,” Wade said at Tuesday’s meeting.

Wade started Tuesday’s meeting by explaining that a review of the city’s charter led him to believe the body could meet and do some business with six members.

The council has three vacant seats, hence only 10 members elected and sworn.

Wade said a majority of those members have to be present for a quorum, which now is six.

The council then worked through dozens of items on a backlogged agenda.

“We have business to do, we don’t really have time to play games,” Boyd said.

Memphis City Council gets back to business

Memphis attorney Ricky Wilkins represented the four protesting council members at Tuesday’s meeting.

“This council had 30 days to appoint a vacancy and there’s an argument that at the end of 30 days, they lost the power to fill the vacancy,” Wilkins said. “We think Rhonda Logan should be seated right now by this council.”

The group walked out of last Tuesday's meeting and no-showed standing meetings on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday.

The four say the council appointment process for the open District 1 seat was unfair and Raleigh community leader Rhonda Logan should've been appointed.

Wilkins says he believes there are legal questions surrounding Tuesday morning's meeting.

“We are looking at all our options,” Wilkins said. “My folks are not interested in litigating we want to make sure this council acts properly and is fair to everybody including Ms. Logan.”

The one-hour meeting did not include the District 1 appointment, moving it to next week.

Next week, the council also has to appoint two other seats and pick a chairman.

“Hopefully on the 18th we'll find someone,” Boyd said. “If not, we'll just punt it.” Boyd acknowledged Tuesday that District 1 may not get a representative until October's municipal election.

“If we can't come to a consensus or an agreement to a candidate then we will just leave the District 1 position vacant,” Boyd said. The group approved some agenda items but held off on hearing MLGW's budget, which includes rate hikes.

“We were ready today, I do think it’s important to have the full council all available members here to hear this, it is very important,” said MLGW CEO J.T. Young.

WMC Action News 5 political analyst Michael Nelson says the dysfunction is a black eye for the council.

“The city council has turned into a disaster,” Nelson said.

He said it provided no compromise and leaving the District 1 seat open doesn't really solve the problem.

“It’s certainly not a good solution,” Nelson said. “It might be among the last bad solutions that are available.”

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