Guerrilla Law 

Changes in city charter, make-up of council possible in next general election 

Our Justice Center masked man has his ear to the ground

Putnam Pit Guerrilla Law columnist 

    COOKEVILLE, Tenn. -- In previous columns we've explored the methods that Cookeville electors could employ to amend the city charter to allow for reduction of ugly local political fat.  
    However, it would take an amendment to the Tennessee constitution to establish a provision allowing for recall of  a state or county official whose office is established by the state constitution. Boy, talk about a long and time-consuming process. It would take a proposal adopted by the state legislature in two sessions, or passage by a convention called by the legislature and submitted to and passed by the voters.  Honestly, do you think incumbents would support or fight a populist measure like that unless it was somehow rigged, tied to something that benefited them immediately or exempted them from its provisions?  
    Back to the City of Cookeville.  A member of the city council and a potential candidate for council tell your guerrilla lawyer that a local attorney is looking into a "model recall provision" to be proposed to the voters in the next general election.  It is but one of the changes to the charter being discussed.  
    Your guerrilla lawyer has spoken with incumbents and wannabes and learned that a potential provision on the next general election ballot might increase the number of persons on the council to reflect the increased population. One or more members might be elected from each precinct and an additional one or more might be elected from the city at large.  
    Another possible change would provide for the popular election of the mayor, as most Tennessee cities do,  instead of the local practice of the council choosing from among its own ranks.  In fact, some Tennessee cities provide for a full-time, salaried mayor, and others have part-time mayors who receive a corresponding salary.  It's likely the mayoral provisions would spark the most controversy, certainly all possibilities and possibly some changes proposed.  Under the existing system, tradition, not the law, has the person getting the most votes named mayor by the other council members. So with a change you might see a person receiving the least votes becoming mayor.  This certainly would not reflect the popular consensus, but in light of the actions of the current council who knows what else might happen?