VOL. 124 | NO. 130 | Monday, July 06, 2009
Herenton Staying Put for Almost Three More Weeks
By Andy Meek
Memphis mayor Willie Herenton sent a letter Monday to City Council chairman and would-be mayor pro tempore Myron Lowery saying the mayor will delay for almost three weeks his resignation.
The news comes after several days of speculation the mayor would delay or step back from his previously announced resignation date of July 10 because of dissatisfaction with the crowded field of candidates vying to succeed him. That field includes more than a dozen candidates and is growing almost by the day.
Even more of a surprise Monday, Herenton said in his letter “a court of competent jurisdiction” should rule on several of the complicated, unanswered legal questions raised by what was to have been Friday’s transfer of power.
As council chairman, Lowery was to have succeeded Herenton for 90 days under terms of the City Charter. That transition was to have occurred Friday (July 10) with Lowery’s swearing in at City Hall followed by approval from the City Council that same day on appointments Lowery was to have begun making to various city offices.
Herenton’s letter throws that – plus what city government will look like and how it will operate in the short term - immediately into doubt.
As part of Herenton’s delay in stepping down, the city’s five-term mayor cited pressing city business he wants to complete as well as lingering contractual matters among the city’s various division directors that still have to be resolved. Herenton, who is a candidate in next year’s Democratic primary for the 9th Congressional Seat currently held by U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen, also has asked Keith McGee, the city’s chief administrative officer who resigned a few weeks ago, to stay on board with Herenton until July 30.
In his letter sent to Lowery in advance of a meeting the two men were expected to have Monday afternoon to talk about the coming transition, Herenton added another dramatic curveball. The mayor suggested a lawsuit may be necessary to answer the question of whether voters should have the chance to fill Lowery’s council seat, which the longtime chairman said he’d “freeze” while acting as temporary mayor.
The full text of Herenton’s letter reads:
“Dear Chairman Lowery:
This is to inform you that I am delaying my retirement date to July 30, 2009. A retirement reception in my honor will be held in the Hall of Mayors on July 31, 2009, between 2:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m.
There remains some important city business matters that I need additional time to complete. Several division directors have contractual matters that need to be resolved. I have also requested Keith McGee to remain in office until July 30, 2009.
Any action on the part of the Memphis City Council at this time is premature. It is apparent to many citizens in our city that a court of competent jurisdiction should rule on several important issues. The new charter provisions are silent on some important issues.
First, is it appropriate for the mayor pro-tem to hold an executive and legislative position at the same time?
Should the citizens in a special election vote for a mayor and your vacant council seat? We need answers? An immediate friendly lawsuit may be necessary.
Willie W. Herenton”