Chattanooga councilman challenges state recall law

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CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (AP) - A Chattanooga city councilman has filed a lawsuit challenging the state’s recall statute after he says citizens petitioned to remove him from office because he is gay.

Councilman Chris Anderson says the state law allows discrimination because petitioners aren’t required to state a reason for recalling an official.

Residents petitioned to remove Anderson from office after he proposed allowing benefits for domestic partners of city employees.

Activist Charlie Wysong, who is helping with the recall efforts, told the Chattanooga Times Free Press (http://bit.ly/1cHOIrw) that the petition stems from the public’s dissatisfaction with Anderson’s performance in office.

“They’re saying they don’t want people to exercise their right for a recall,” he said, adding that he thinks voters should retain that right.

In his lawsuit, Anderson calls the statute unconstitutionally vague. He asks the court to block the recall petition and strike down the statute.

The first hearing in the lawsuit is set for March 10.

His attorney, Stuart James, said a judge would have to decide whether Tennessee voters have too much leeway to recall public officials.

“I don’t think it was intended to recall someone after nine months of office,” James said. “It undermines the electoral process.”

When the recall petition was discussed by the Hamilton County Election Commission on Feb. 13, James argued that the petition didn’t give a reason for the recall.

“What if this petition was recalling Moses Freeman and said we’re recalling him because he’s black? Or what if it’s against Carol Berz? Would you recall Carol Berz because she’s a woman?” James asked the commission. “Would you approve this petition? I don’t think so.”

Several commissioners agreed that the language was vague, but said the petition conformed to state law.

“I’m hoping the Legislature will address this at some point,” said board member Jerry Summers.

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Information from: Chattanooga Times Free Press, http://www.timesfreepress.com

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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