VOL. 124 | NO. 132 | Wednesday, July 8, 2009
City Council Declares Mayoral Vacancy At End Of July
By Bill Dries
The Memphis City Council approved Tuesday on a 7-6 vote a resolution declaring the mayor’s office vacant as of July 31.
The vote came after a debate in which council members questioned each other’s motives, Mayor Willie Herenton’s word and several legal opinions.
The Shelby County Election Commission will meet Thursday in special session to consider the council’s action. Election Commission chairman Bill Giannini told The Daily News the group doesn’t necessarily need to wait on the approval of the council meeting minutes in two weeks to act. The Election Commission would set the deadline for candidates to file their qualifying petitions and an election date 90 days from Herenton’s final day on the job, under terms of the City Charter.
Council attorney Allan Wade told council members that they needed a more definitive declaration in writing from Herenton about his departure. Without such a declaration in writing, Wade argued Herenton could say in a possible lawsuit that the July 30 departure was not his intent. Wade also said Herenton’s final written communication on the topic of his resignation said he have revoked all previous letters on the subject including the one this week that reset his resignation for July 30.
“What we need from him is unequivocal clarification. ‘I am going to retire on July 30.’ Not ‘I intend to’ – or ‘I may.’ Not ‘I will’, but ‘I am,’” Wade said.
But Herenton, apparently unaware of the sporadic council debate for much of the day Tuesday, later called a reporter from The Daily News to his office as the council met downstairs at City Halll to emphasize that he would be leaving office at the end of the work day July 30.
Council member Jim Strickland proposed the resolution as word of Herenton’s statement found its way to council members.
Council member Janis Fullilove argued there shouldn’t be a problem even if Herenton wants to abandon the July 30 date and push back his departure even further.
“I think it’s personal against Mayor Herenton,” Fullilove said. “What’s the problem?”
“The problem is the mayor himself and his word as leader of this city. He’s told us now four different times,” Council member Bill Boyd replied, referring to Herenton’s first announced resignation in March 2008. “Anything we can do to encourage him to live up to this July 30 date is what we should do. … Everyone knows what the problem is.”
“The mayor was elected for four years,” she said. “Everybody changes their mind, Mr. Boyd.”
The close council vote includes the votes of four council members who have either declared their candidacy in the special election to come or who have said they are considering a bid in the special election.
Voting for the resolution were: Council chairman Myron Lowery, who becomes mayor for three months with Herenton’s resignation and who is running in the special election, Jim Strickland and Kemp Conrad who are considering candidacies, Bill Boyd, who is heading Lowery’s transition team, Shea Flinn, Reid Hedgepeth and Bill Morrison.
Voting against the resolution were: Wanda Halbert, who is considering a bid for mayor in the special election, Joe Brown, Harold Collins, Edmund Ford Jr., Janis Fullilove and Barbara Swearengen Ware.
Read more in Thursday’s edition of The Daily News.