City councilman Bill Boyd, who voted with the council majority Tuesday night in its 7-6 vote declaring the Memphis mayoralty vacant as of July 31, does not regret his switching off to vote against same-night approval of the council minutes for that meeting.
Boyd explained that he believed the council would have put itself in a legally vulnerable situation if if had approved the minutes without a formal letter from Mayor Willie Herenton declaring his tenure to be at an end as of July 30. “We would just have had more chaos,” opined Boyd, who said he preferred to wait until the council received incontrovertible proof of the mayor’s intentions in the form of such a letter.
But Election Commission chairman Bill Giannini, who, after a brief five-minute meeting of the commission at its Shelby Farms office, informed the media that the commission was powerless to call a special election, confirmed that official minutes confirming a 7-6 vote by the council had been all the commission needed to set election dates on Tuesday.
On the question of possible litigation by Herenton or others challenging the election dates in lieu of a formal letter of the sort Boyd mentioned, Giannini said, “We don’t concern ourselves with the legal aspects. That’s beyond our purview. We would have set an election date.” Without an approved set of miniutes of the council’s Tuesday night action, “our hands were tied,” said Giannini.
Under normal circumstances, the council approves the minutes of a given meeting at the commencement of the next one, normally two weeks later.
Boyd, a participant in Tuesday night’s debate on the side of those who favored councilman Jim Strickland’s resolution in favor of “same-night minutes” approval, said he thought going ahead with same-night approval without an ironclad letter from Herenton would have given the mayor control over the outcome and an excuse to delay events even further.
Strickland, who authored the declaration of vacancy resolution and voted with five others for Reid Hedgepeth's resolution calling for same-night minutes, disagreed. “I wanted us to move to a position of certainty. Instead we allowed the situation to remain uncertain.”
Boyd said he would be in favor of a special meeting of the council to expedite the election process as soon as the council received the mayor’s letter. “[Chairman] Myrion Lowery’s out of town right now, but, as soon as he gets back, we should take it up with him.”