State Election Coordinator Says City Council Action Must Precede Charter-Surrender Referendum

Surprise action will mean further delay in scheduling vote. Council source hints at alternative actions to speed election process. Allan Wade says backup petition is already prepared.



Mark Goins
  • Mark Goins
In yet another of the seismic surprises that have characterized the ongoing standoff between the Memphis and Shelby County school systems, state Election Coordinator Mark Goins has advised Bill Giannini, chairman of the Shelby County Election Commission, that, without a resolution from the Memphis City Council, a date cannot be set for a referendum on surrender of the Memphis City Schools charter.

Giannini indicated that he would elaborate on the ruling at the Election Commission’s scheduled 4:30 meeting Wednesday afternoon. He had previously indicated that, without word from Goins, the Election Commission intended to set February 15 as the date for the surrender referendum.

When and if the referendum, authorized by the MCS board on December 20, goes forward and is passed, merger between MCS and SCS would automatically ensue.

A source on the City Council indicated that a public petition on behalf of the referendum {"which would be a low bar"} could bypass the obstacle presented by Goins' ruling, and that other remedies were available short of direct Council action.

Council attorney Allan Wade confirmed that a petition signed by 25 voting residents of Memphis could accomplish what an official resolution from the Council would to authorize the referendum.

Wade said such a petition had in fact already been prepared as a backup.

In any case, the effect of Goins' ruling will be to further snarl an already unwieldy and uncertain timetable for resolution on the crisis that began gathering after the November 2 election, with an announcement from SCS board chairman David Pickler that he would be pursuing legislation to enable a special school district for Shelby County schools.

MCS board members Martavius Jones and Tomeka Hart responded with a resolution to surrender the MCS charter, and on December 20, the MCS board voted 5-4 to call a charter-surrender referendum.

Ever since, Pickler and other representatives of SCS have sought a means of delaying such a development. They held a Monday press conference predicting chaos if the school systems' merger should go through.

On Tuesday, Memphis Mayor A C Wharton and Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell held a press conference to offer their services in easing whatever transition should develop as a result of the referendum.

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