Greenfield referendum on hold, city attorney held accountable

By: Amanda Mansfield

Press Reporter

During Tuesday night’s City of Greenfield Board of Mayor and Aldermen meeting, a heated discussion led some aldermen calling for the dismissal of the city’s attorney, Beau Pemberton, due to delayed action and lack of knowledge regarding a proposed referendum that was called for earlier this year.

In January, the City of Greenfield consulted with a third-party firm regarding the city’s charter and the legal steps needed in order to change the city’s number of aldermen from eight to six members. Alex Britt, Weakley County election administrator, was also consulted. During these consultations, it was determined that an amendment to the charter would not be feasible, but instead it was recommended that a referendum be put on November’s ballot for citizens to vote on whether or not to change the number of Greenfield aldermen.

However, it has since been determined by state governing authorities that the city of Greenfield does not have the authority to pass this referendum; instead the city must first pass a private act that authorizes the referendum being placed on the ballot. Alderman Mike Caudle told Pemberton, “you’ve been working on this since January; you should have known before now.” He went on to say, “you’ve had enough dealings with the Election Commission, you should have known that, and that’s your responsibility.” Pemberton replied, “I’ll accept that, Mr. Caudle.” Caudle then stated, “I make a motion that we dismiss Mr. Pemberton for negligence.” Alderman Mark Galey seconded the motion. Alderman Thomas Tansil stated that he spoke to Britt earlier in the day and he was made aware of the need for the private act in June.

Alderwoman Karen Campbell asked Pemberton when he first received notification that the referendum could not be put on the ballot, and Pemberton’s response was, “that would have been approximately three and a half weeks ago.” Campbell stated to Pemberton, “you, as a lawyer, are to advise us and seek out what is legal and what is not legal. So, my concern is that there was no action on your part between January and when you did hear [from the state]. Although we had a consultant, why were there no checks on the legality of it?” Pemberton stated, “like any attorney does, I rely on professional expertise to help guide the discussion, and I was not aware of any specific provision that would prohibit us from having a referendum until I was corrected.” He continued, “that was a surprise to me, as it was to Mr. Britt and others.” Pemberton then stated that while taking other actions, he did not submit the proposal until the date that he knew he had to have it in by, leaving no time for the possibility of a denial and further necessary actions.

Alderman Caudle asked why no mention of this had been made before now, to which Pemberton responded, “because it hadn’t been asked of me, and I didn’t think to bring it up to the board, and apparently that’s my shortcomings.” Alderman Tansil expressed that he didn’t think Pemberton acted with any malice, but he was just misguided.

Mayor Cindy McAdams noted that holding a special election solely for this particular referendum would cost the city close to $10,000. She said, “I’m not going to do that to the city.” Mark Galey then commented that he was concerned that the citizens will not get a say in how government runs.

Ultimately, the motion to dismiss Pemberton failed by a vote of 5-3, with Aldermen Paul Grooms, Thomas Tansil, James Pope, Donald High, and Bobby Morris voting against Pemberton’s dismissal and Aldermen Mike Caudle, Mark Galey, and Karen Campbell voting in favor of his dismissal.

In other news, Fire Chief, Bob Dudley, announced that the 31st annual Fall Fire Prevention Festival has been canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Next year’s festival has been scheduled for Oct. 4-9, 2021.

Kirk McCartney, Parks and Recreation Director, stated that parents have been asking about football season. He stated that Bruceton has canceled their season and West Carroll will likely cancel theirs as well. When asked about a fall baseball season, McCartney explained that would probably not work due to limited teams and rising COVID-19 cases in our area.

A rezoning ordinance that will rezone 201 Garland Street to 308 North Second Street from business to residential was approved on its third reading, and an ordinance to require property rights voters to vote by mail-in ballot was also approved on its third and final reading. According to city attorney, Beau Pemberton, “we haven’t had any public written comments filed, before tonight’s meeting,” with regards to either ordinance. Both ordinances passed unanimously.

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