Memphis City Council Chairman Berlin Boyd adjourned a fourth straight meeting without a quorum Friday, announcing that the next scheduled session is set for 10 a.m. next Tuesday.
The 13-member council is three members short because of members who won election to positions with the county. And since last Tuesday, four of the 10 serving have been no-shows — a response to their dissatisfaction with moves associated with filling the seat left vacant by the departure of Bill Morrison to serve as Shelby County Probate Clerk.
Boyd on Friday said some business would be conducted from the Dec. 4 agenda with or without a quorum at the session set for Tuesday (Dec. 11). Asked how, he responded, “Where there is a will there is a way. Stay tuned.”
Council members Jamita Swearengen, Patrice Robinson, Joe Brown and Martavius Jones walked out of Tuesday’s council meeting and have not shown up for any of the special sessions called since then. They support Rhonda Logan, executive director of the Raleigh Community Development Corp., the lone remaining candidate now that Lonnie Treadaway has withdrawn amid the controversy.
Last Tuesday, after two rounds of voting failed to break the tie between Logan and Treadaway, there was a motion to open the field to all other qualified candidates. That prompted the walkout of the four council members, whose assessment is that the sentiment in District 1 is to have Logan as the area’s representative.
Councilman Jones on Saturday told The New Tri-State Defender that he remains committed to Logan as the District 1 choice.
“I will not be able to attend (next Tuesday’s meeting) because I will be out of town,” Jones said. “I don’t know about the others.”
Asked if Swearengen, Brown and Robinson are also still committed to Logan, he said, “to the best of my knowledge, yes.”
Boyd gaveled Friday’s meeting to a close with this: “Due to the unavailability of some members I’m going to adjourn this meeting until Tuesday at 10 a.m. …We have business that we need to take care of … and we will move forward on Tuesday at 10 a.m.”
Afterwards, he talked with the media.
“We’re not trying to get into a situation like with our Congress and our U.S. Senate where they shut government down,” Boyd said. “We’re not planning on shutting our government down because of some decisions that were made and some slight disagreements.”
For the most part, the city council is a “great body” comprised of some great individuals, he said.
“At the end of the day we have a tendency to all get along. …We just have a difference of opinion, and we are not able to agree to disagree on this matter and it just went a little further than I anticipated.”
Council members Worth Morgan, Frank Colvette, Kemp Conrad and J. Ford Canale attended Friday’s truncated meeting.
Since the walkout, special meetings have been called using a part of the home rule charter that allows council members to call meetings every day, if necessary, to reach a quorum. Council members can also sue absent members in Chancery Court to compel their attendance.
Boyd said he is not looking to make use of that option.
“We’re all adults…I’m hoping we can figure this out without having to go that far,” he said. “That’s my goal. We have been communicating (with the absent council members) in various ways to find out if they want to come back and to find out the status, how long this will continue. …
“We haven’t been very successful. We’ve been using (Memphis City Council) attorney (Allan) Wade a lot since I can’t have direct access to my colleagues in violation of the Sunshine Law.”
Boyd said he is not pursuing legal remedies in Chancery Court “to keep things as peaceful and in as positive a manner as possible. …We’re extending an olive branch to our colleagues that left and saying, ‘we want to work with you.’”
After walking out on Tuesday, Councilmember Robinson said, “We had to make a statement that we were not going to go along with the okey-doke. …Sometimes as a community and as an elected official we have to stand our ground and this time we decided we had to stand our ground.”