VOL. 129 | NO. 123 | Wednesday, June 25, 2014
Brooks' Attorneys Claim Different Address
By Bill Dries
Shelby County Commissioner Henri Brooks still lives in her district but at a different address than the one she listed on numerous records, including her recent arrest report, according to her attorneys.
Attorney Michael Working said Brooks lives on the 1100 block of Mississippi Boulevard and moved there after ending a relationship with the man who owned the house in the 1800 block of Crump Avenue, near Rhodes College, that she has listed as her residence for several years.
The house on Crump is in the district, but a county attorney’s report released Tuesday, June 24, concluded there was no evidence Brooks lived there, citing neighbors who said they had never seen her at the house.
Working told reporters of the new address Wednesday, June 25, after county commissioners voted to add a resolution to their July 7 agenda that declares Brooks’ seat vacant based on the county attorney’s report that concludes she violated the residency provision of the county charter.
There is no structure at the address Working first gave, which is at the intersection of Mississippi Boulevard and East McLemore Avenue. He later corrected the address to a house on the same block of Mississippi.
Brooks voted in Wednesday’s committee discussion about the vacancy, even after committee chairman Justin Ford’s decision to count her votes was overruled by other commissioners.
In a written statement after the committee session, Brooks said the county attorney’s report was “to get me off this body and out of the Juvenile Court Clerk’s race.”
“And it was made because they control the machinery and resources to do so.”
She also vowed to appeal any action the commission takes to remove her.
Working and attorney Andre Wharton also confirmed that the push to remove Brooks from her seat with nine weeks left in her term will likely result in a move to court.
“Due process rights are fundamental to our justice system, and this process cannot violate that right,” Brooks said.
County Attorney Marcy Ingram told Shelby County commissioners this month that it was likely there could be a court challenge of any attempt to oust Brooks as a commissioner.
“It may not be that simple,” Ingram said of the process set out in the county charter when there is a finding that a commissioner no longer lives in the district he or she represents.
The Shelby County charter specifically says that if a commissioner voluntarily moves their residence out of the district they represent, they forfeit their commission seat immediately.
“The Tennessee Attorney General has said that ‘no judicial determination’ is necessary when the elected official does not reside in the district which elected her,” Ingram wrote in a cover letter to the six-page report her office released Tuesday that concluded Brooks does not live in the district she has represented for the last eight years.
“Therefore, the commission should immediately declare the seat vacant, all salary and benefits must cease and the commissioner is no longer entitled to perform the functions of such office,” Ingram added.
Working and Wharton, as well as Commissioner Walter Bailey, however, questioned where in the charter it says the county attorney has the authority to recommend a vacancy be declared without some kind of hearing – at least before the commission, if not in court.
“No unelected person should have that power over elected officials,” Working told commissioners.
Wharton termed it “uncharted territory.”
“Tomorrow, it could be any of you elected officials in this county,” he added.
“This is really a game and a mockery,” Commissioner Chris Thomas replied. “She knows she doesn’t live there.”
Commissioner Steve Basar called on Brooks to resign.
“This is painful,” Basar said. “Do the right thing. Don’t make this a charade. … Show some leadership.”
Bailey said if Brooks doesn’t live in the district, it is “reprehensible.”
“But there’s a process called due process,” added Bailey, who is an attorney. “Allow this issue to be aired in the proper forum. … We’re totally without authority. The county attorney has no business opining.”
Even though the state attorney general says no judicial hearing is necessary for the commission to act, Brooks could still file suit in Chancery Court to stop what amounts to an ouster. Or the attorney general’s office could go to Chancery Court if Brooks contests the report’s conclusion.
And it could easily take a court proceeding longer than the nine weeks Brooks has left in office to result in a ruling on either matter, not even taking into account the time involved in any appeals.
Brooks is the Democratic nominee for Juvenile Court clerk in the Aug. 7 county general election. She is term-limited from seeking a third four-year term on the commission.