New Tennessee Law Allows Fed Up Jackson Residents to Recall School Board Members

 

Jackson-Madison County residents are trying to recall one of their school board members, and more may follow, thanks to a newly enacted Tennessee law.

State Rep. Chris Todd, R-Madison County, and State Sen. Ed Jackson, R-Jackson, sponsored the bill and helped enact it into law. The law applies only to Jackson-Madison County.

Todd told The Tennessee Star this week that several of his constituents are upset with three or four local school board members, whom he described as “obstructionist.”

“We got folks up in arms. During that time frame they asked me and Senator Jackson if we could get a bill passed to allow a recall election for school board members,” Todd said.

“We got to checking into it and discovered there were some counties, especially the older ones, like Knox, where it’s in their charter. Very few other counties had this,” he added. “There were also some special school districts that had the ability to recall school board members.”

Todd said he and Jackson wanted to apply the law statewide, but too few legislators wanted it in their own counties.

Jackson did not return The Star’s request for comment this week, but Todd had more to say.

“I got our legal team together, and we put together the language that made it apply only to Madison County but we added the severability clause so that if that was ever challenged then it would apply statewide,” he said.

Now that the law is in place, county residents are trying to recall school board member Doris Black.

Black, elected to the school board last year, said people in the county wanted the law to silence one of her colleagues on the board, Morris Merriweather.

“Morris has no filter. Whatever comes up, comes out. And people were very upset with him and wanted to remove him,” said Black, who is African-American.

“Around here we called it ‘The Morris Merriweather Bill.’ We think the first intent was to recall him,” she continued. “They realized they could not remove Morris because he is too popular in his district. I was the next logical person they could remove from the board, because I represent a predominantly white community.”

Merriweather told The Star he concurs with Black’s opinion.

“I’m next in line after they get through with Doris,” Merriweather said.

Black said her constituents want her gone because she doesn’t want a new school in a certain area because of traffic concerns.

Todd, though, said Black is one of the four obstructionists on the school board, especially with how she and others voted on the school district’s 10-year plan.

“My understanding from my constituents’ feedback was these several members, up to four, were doing things, at different times during the process of future planning,” Todd said.

“After the 10-year-item was approved, they voted against individual items pertaining to that 10-year plan, even though it was part of the original plan they had approved. It was saying you approve something but then individually you voted against it.”

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Chris Butler is an investigative journalist at The Tennessee Star. Follow Chris on Facebook. Email tips to [email protected]
Background Photo “Tennessee Capital” by Chris Connelly. CC BY 2.0.

 

 

 

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