The Memphis City Council delayed filling its three vacant seats Tuesday until the first meeting of 2019.
All of the 10-member council was present at Tuesday’s meeting, following a walkout staged by four members at the last scheduled meeting earlier this month.
Supporting candidate Rhonda Logan, council members Joe Brown, Jamita Swearengen, Patrice Robinson, and Martavious Jones walked out of the December 4th meeting after Councilman Kemp Conrad made a motion to open the floor back up to all six candidates vying for the District 1 spot. The four council members called that move unfair, as Logan is the district’s choice candidate.
The walkout came during a continuation of the council’s November 20th meeting, which ended in a deadlock after more than 100 rounds of voting on the top two vote-getters from the previous rounds: Logan, who is the executive director of the Raleigh Community Development Corp., and Lonnie Treadaway, sales manager for Flinn Broadcasting Corp. Throughout the rounds of voting that night, Logan consistently garnered six votes, one shy of winning the seat.
The day after the walkout, at the first of four standing meetings called in an attempt to reach a quorum, Treadaway withdrew his bid for the seat, saying he wanted to do what’s best for the city.
The remaining six council members called their colleagues’ no-show “embarrassing” and “sad,” as without a quorum, the council was unable to vote on other city business on the December 4th agenda. However, last week council attorney Allen Wade suggested that the city charter deems a quorum as the majority of “duly elected officials,” and because the council is currently a 10-member body, six made a quorum.
Tuesday, the four council members who participated in the walkout returned to work, giving the council a quorum and enabling business to resume as usual.
But tensions flared once more when council member Reid Hedgepeth made a motion to allow only two more rounds of voting for Logan and if she didn’t get the six votes needed to win she would be eliminated. Though highly contested by Swearengen and Jones, that motion passed.
Logan, receiving four votes in both rounds, failed to garner the votes needed and was eliminated.
After a much heated debate over council rules and what constitutes a majority, Hedgepeth made a motion to delay the vote for the District 1 seat until the January 8th meeting, saying that in the meantime the council needs to find someone “that can get seven votes.”
During the public comments portion of the meeting, speakers criticized the council’s actions, in some cases, claiming their lack of support for Logan is racially motivated.
The council also delayed the vote to fill the Super District 8-2 and District 6 seats vacated by Janis Fullilove and Edmund Ford Jr. in November.