City council able to spend taxpayer money on political campaign

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A judge in chancery court this afternoon dismissed a lawsuit, thereby allowing the city council to spend taxpayer money on a political campaign.

The campaign will likely include people at the polls on election day encouraging Memphians to vote "yes" on three referendums. The council recently voted to fund the effort with $30,000 to $40,000 tax dollars.

One referendum extends mayor and council term limits. Another repeals instant runoff voting, a process where you rank your candidate choices to eliminate the need for costly runoff elections. That lawsuit dismissed this afternoon demanded the money not be spent and says these measures unfairly help the current council members.

Bryce Ashby is an attorney representing those who filed the suit.

"What you've got here is the city council acting really without giving notice to the public for their own benefit," he says.

Allan Wade is the city council's attorney. He claims IRV is ineffective and says spending that taxpayer money makes sense. After all, the council voted to put these measures on the ballot.

"They passed it. They have to stand behind it and explain to public why they voted for it and I think they're entitled to do it," Wade says.

The suit was partly filed on behalf of two people who intend to run for city council next year. The judge, Chancellor Jim Kyle, felt their claims were premature since the election is next October. He suggested they file a similar suit then.

"If one can show that the expenditure of those funds is why a resolution passed or failed you've got 11 months to show us that," Chancellor Kyle says.

IRV was approved by voters a decade ago but was never put into place.

Mayor Jim Strickland opposes the city council spending that money but has no power to stop it.

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