January 25, 2005 Mr. Raymond Ferguson City Administrator

January 25, 2005
Mr. Raymond Ferguson
City Administrator
1301 West Main
P.O. Box 488
Decherd, Tennessee
Re: Votes Required to Fill a Vacancy
Dear Mr. Ferguson:
You have asked MTAS to advise the City of Decherd as to the number of votes needed to
fill a vacancy on the city board.
The Charter of the City of Decherd provides for a Board of Aldermen of four members.
Your charter is somewhat unusual in that subsequent to this provision other sections
contain reference to a Board of Mayor and Aldermen, as if this is some other board that
includes the Mayor. It is, I think, pretty clear that the governing board consists of four
members. The Mayor has the authority to veto legislative actions and to actually vote in
the event of a tie vote by the Board of Aldermen. Section 9 of the charter provides that a
majority of the members to which the Board of Mayor and Aldermen is entitled shall be a
quorum to do business. A majority of four is three. A minimum of three members is
therefore required to constitute a quorum. Once a quorum is established, a majority of
the quorum is required to fill a vacancy. This means that if three aldermen are present,
two votes are required to fill a vacancy. The vacancy is filled for the remainder of the
term of the person whose office is vacated, since the charter does not say until the next
The Decherd City Charters is badly in need of revision. Among other things, the charter
could be clearer on terms like “Board of Aldermen” and “Board of Mayor and
Aldermen.” The charter should state whether or not the Mayor is counted toward making
a quorum. In legislative bodies an extra ordinary majority is often reserved for those
matters that should be difficult to amend. It is unusual that an extra ordinary majority of
¾ is required to simply pass a motion, resolution, or ordinance. Another problem with a
four member board is that if two members should vacate their offices, for whatever
reason or circumstance, then it is not possible for the remaining two members to carry on
the city’s business. It is quite conceivable that you could have a Mayor and two board
members who would be powerless to meet in order to carry on the affairs of government.
MTAS recommends that the city ask the General Assembly to either increase the size of
the governing board or add an emergency powers clause allowing the city to continue
operation if it is unable to obtain a quorum of its governing board. The charter could, for
example, state that in the event that the city is unable to convene a quorum at two regular
meetings, the Mayor shall then be declared a member for the purpose of constituting a
I hope this addresses your concerns. Please contact me if I may provide further
Don Darden
Municipal Management Consultant