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VOL. 128 | NO. 64 | Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Commission Votes Down Residency Referendum, Names Gomes New Judge

By Bill Dries

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Shelby County Commissioners gave final approval Monday, April 1, to an exemption to the county government residency requirement for Memphis City Schools teachers and other school system employees.

The commission also voted down an August ballot question that would have put to voters doing away with the residency requirement in the county charter.

Meanwhile, the commission appointed attorney Kathleen Gomes as the new Probate Court Judge to fill the vacancy created by the pending retirement of Judge Robert Benham.

Benham has delayed his retirement pending his ongoing hearing on the custody of the children of slain Memphis Police officer Martoiya Lang. The hearing was underway at the Shelby County Courthouse Monday as the commission considered his replacement.

Gomes will serve through August 2014 when the winner of a full eight-year term in the August 2014 “big ballot” elections takes office.

Gomes won on the second round of voting by the commission, defeating State Senator Jim Kyle.

Kyle appeared to have the seven votes to become judge of the first ballot when commissioner Walter Bailey changed his vote for attorney and former county commissioner Julian Bolton to Kyle. But when Bailey changed his vote for Kyle, commissioner Steve Mulroy changed his vote for Kyle to an abstention, leaving Kyle one vote short.

Gomes had the seven votes she needed on the second round of voting.

In other action, commissioners voted down a resolution to transfer another $103,889 from its contingency fund to pay legal fees in the federal schools lawsuit.

The resolution fell one vote short of the seven necessary to pass because Bailey, the seventh vote in favor, was out of the room at the time.

Commissioner Henri Brooks abstained just minutes after she complained that commission chairman Mike Ritz had “disrespected” her during the residency debate by asking her if she was seeking to speak again.

Reconsideration of the item was blocked under commission rules when there was an objection to commissioner Steve Mulroy’s move to change his vote in order to move for reconsideration.

The commission could reconsider the item when minutes from the meeting are voted on at the April 15 commission meeting.

Ritz announced at the end of the meeting that the county commission-approved resolution seeking a 13-member countywide school board had become effective without Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell vetoing it. Luttrell also didn’t sign it.

The plan which would involve the commission appointing six people to the school board to begin serving effective Sept. 1 with seven existing school board members now goes to Memphis Federal Court Judge Samuel “Hardy” Mays.

Attorneys for suburban leaders have already indicated they are opposed to the commission action.

Countywide school board members approved a resolution last month asking Mays to instead delay the move to a 13-member board until voters can fill the six positions for the first time in the August 2014 county general elections.

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