Appeal in Littlefield recall case struck down

Authored By James Harrison

An appeal to a judge’s decision to halt an election to recall Mayor Ron Littlefield was struck down Wednesday, effectively putting an end to a two-year court battle.

The opinion issued by the state Court of Appeals at Knoxville found that although the statute pertaining to recalls in the City Charter was valid, the group seeking to remove Littlefield fell short of the number of dated signatures required to satisfy requirements for recall. 

“The recall petition did not have a sufficient minimum number of dated signatures to satisfy the requirements of the City Charter,” the opinion reads. “. We find that the City Charter prevails as to the necessary number of signatures to support the recall effort.”

The case was remanded.

The appeal was the second to come from the group Citizens to Recall Mayor Ron Littlefield. 

Jim Folkner, leader of the group, said upon learning of the ruling he was “sorry” to see the law pertaining to signatures not diminished, even if the group had received bad information from election officials. Folkner suggested misinformation was given when the group began researching and outlining plans to recall the mayor. 

Folkner added he was pleased to see the court rule in favor of the City Charter, describing it as “vindicated.”

“We want to seize upon the victory we’ve had, and it’s a big victory that we’ve kept the City Charter intact,” Folkner said. “We have a valid City Charter; the court has vindicated it.” 

The upholding of the charter could potentially have an effect on recent efforts by the Chattanooga City Council to amend the portion of the document as it pertains to recalls. 

In July, the group approved a final reading of a resolution to place a referendum on the November ballot that would align the charter with state standards for mayoral recalls as outlined in the Tennessee state constitution. That would require at least 15 percent of registered voters to sign a recall petition before moving forward and 15 percent of registered voters in the districts of City Council members to sign a recall petition before being subject to recall. 

Richard Beeland, spokesman for Littlefield, said that the mayor was pleased to be moving past the recall issue. 

“We’re glad that this is finally put behind us and put to bed,” Beeland said. “We can move ahead with the other issues that are out here, every day, and continue our work to make Chattanooga one of the best midsized cities in the nation.”

Littlefield’s term expires in April.