Lawsuit against Hamilton County Election Commission

Reported by: Shawn Lanier
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Updated: 7/01 7:34 pm
CHATTANOOGA, TN (WDEF-TV) The Hamilton County Election Commission is facing a lawsuit from Lt. Corliss Cooper regarding same-sex benefits to city employees.

She believes the Commission was swayed by an outside group that forced them to hold an emergency meeting... but that's only the beginning of the problems.

"This lawsuit is about protecting the process,” said Lt. Cooper’s lawyer Stevie Phillips.

Phillips spoke on behalf of her client Lt. Cooper, and said the recent event leading up to and the changes in the ordinance for domestic partner benefits for city employees are in violation of both the Open Meetings Act and Chattanooga's City Charter.

So they are pointing the blame at the Hamilton County Election Commission.

"The Hamilton County Election Commission held a meeting at the last possible minute without notice to the public,” said Phillips. “The City Charter requires that the entire ordinance be printed on the ballot without alteration."

Election Commissioner, Chris Clem., said that is not true.

Clem said, “We gave 48 hours. We notified to media, we notified the city, [and] we notified the petitioners.”

Another Commissioner, Jerry Summers, said some media even attended the meeting.

"It was attended by a representative of Chattanooga's Times Free Press, it was attended by John Wilson of the Chattanooga.com,” Summers said.

As far as violating Chattanooga's City Charter, Lawyer Phillips says there is no state law that overrides the changing of this ordinance, but Chris Clem said there is.

"In this particular case we looked at Tennessee Code Annotated 2-5-151, and it clearly says, the election commission shall publish the question contained in the petition. Well we checked with the state office and we checked with the city attorney and we checked with the petitioners attorney and everyone came to the same conclusion that yes the state law applies"

The Election Commission says they are not taking sides... they are just following the law.

Lawyer Stevie Phillips said what her client wants is for these ballots to not be printed.

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