City attorney says Kelly’s endorsement of Marvene Noel doesn’t violate the Little Hatch Act.
CHATTANOOGA,TN(WDEF) – Marvene Noel defeated Marie Mott in a runoff election for City Council’s District 8 last Thursday. But, there’s only one question that still remains. It’s not as to who won or who lost, but whether Mayor Tim Kelly used his influence to tip the scales of the election.
That question was posed by Eric Atkins of the Unity Group this weekend, when he said, “When the chief executive of the City of Chattanooga saw fit to interject himself in a city council race by openly endorsing and campaigning for a district candidate for office, the delicate balance was upset.”
He’s referring to these pictures of Mayor Kelly at an August runoff election campaign event for Noel. And Mott used Instagram on Friday to echo the point.
Marie Mott, “This attack was not just from my opponent, but, of course, with the interference, coercion and intimidation from our Mayor.”
Jerry Summers, Attorney at Summer, Rufolo & Rodgers says ,”In my mind, there are all kinds of issues involved here. The city attorney’s office, who, as I understand, is appointed by the Mayor with concurrence of the City Council . Are they the ones to give a ruling on this, or should they bring in a special master, which is a popular term on this day in national politics.”
One city attorney responded to that, explaining this wasn’t a violation of either Hatch Act, because there is no provision that says an elected *city* official can’t endorse whomever he chooses.
Summers says an old rule should stand here. “There’s one basic rule of politics: you don’t get involved in somebody else’s race. Either as an elected official, as a candidate in another race.”
Ann Pierre, Branch President, NAACP, “I contacted the Mayor’s office to share with him that I did not think that was appropriate for him to do that. But, of course, he’s the mayor. He’s an individual, so he can do as he chooses. But, I think it put a bad light over the particular election.”
Both Summers and Pierre don’t say the election should be overturned, but each expressed the Hatch Act be clarified.
Summer, “I think the smell test does have a little bit of a possibility in the overall totality of the circumstances.”
While Mott technically has another week to contest the election, she likely won’t. Her Friday Instagram post said that she does accept the results of the election. Either way, Marvene Noel is expected to be sworn into her seat Tuesday at 6:00.(Scott Koral)