Emergency Hearing to Halt Council Media Campaign on Referenda

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UPDATE: Chancellor Kyle issued a temporary injunction against spending of public money, pending an opportunity for him to study the parties’ respective briefs. He will reconvene the case on Tuesday at 10 a.m. DETAILS TO COME

An emergency hearing has been set for 4 p.m. Friday in the courtroom of Chancellor Jim Kyle to hear a request by a group of plaintiffs for a temporary restraining order and injunction against the expenditure of $30,000 to 40,000 in taxpayer funds by the Memphis City Council to advocate publicly for the passage of three referenda on the November 6th ballot.
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By a vote of 5 to 3, the council passed a previously unannounced add-on resolution by Councilman/County Commissioner Edmund Ford Jr. on Tuesday to provide the sum for “a public information campaign concerning the referenda” to explain their "potential benefits to the citizens of Memphis." After passage, the council hastily voted for a “same-night minutes” process to safely embed the vote in the permanent record.

The referenda, which have been and remain controversial, ask voters to nullify previous actions approved by the city's electorate — including a two-term limit for mayor and council members, which would be increased to three terms, and the repeal of a prior referendum calling for instant runoff voting (IRV). Another referendum proposes to nullify the district-runoff provisions of a 1993 court decree.

The request for injunction alleges that the expenditure of public funds for such a one-sided propaganda campaign would constitute “distinct and palpable injury” upon the “general citizenry.”

The plaintiffs also allege that the council’s action lacked proper mayoral authorization or opportunity to veto and that state law does not authorize the use of public funds to advertise on behalf of either side of a ballot referendum. The request for declaratory judgment further states that emergency judicial action is needed to forestall the proposed advertising campaign because voting on the aforesaid referenda is already under way.



Plaintiffs are Erika Sugarmon, John Marek, Sam Goff, and Save IRV, Inc.

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