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City Charter


The Charter of the City was composed entirely of those private acts of the General Assembly as periodically compiled, until 1972 when the voters of the City adopted Home Rule as provided for by Article XI, Section 9 of the Constitution of Tennessee. 

You can view the Charter by clicking on the link in the previous paragraph or by the tab above.  The Charter is archived in Adobe PDF format and Acrobat Reader or plug in is required and free for download from Adobe.

City Charter Prologue

The City of Chattanooga was established by the General Assembly of the State of Tennessee in 1839. Since that time the Private Acts establishing the City have been amended many times. The Charter of the City was composed entirely of those private acts of the General Assembly as periodically compiled, until 1972 when the voters of the City adopted Home Rule as provided for by Article XI, Section 9 of the Constitution of Tennessee. Thereafter, pursuant to said section, amendments to the Charter have been in the form of Ordinances approved by the qualified voters of the City at general elections.

In November of 1987, a civil action captioned Brown, et al. v. Board of Commissioners of the City of Chattanooga, Tennessee, et al., Civil Action No. 1-87-388, was filed in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee, Southern Division. The plaintiffs in the suit, twelve minority residents of the City, brought action against the Board of Commissioners of the City, seeking to have the City's at-large method of electing its Board of Commissioners set aside as being unconstitutional and/or in violation of Section 2 of the Federal Voting Rights Act of 1965, as amended in 1982 (the "Voting Rights Act"). On August 8, 1989, the court held the at-large voting provisions of the City Charter to be in violation of the Voting Rights Act and ordered that the defendant City officials and the City submit an acceptable remedial plan to bring the City into compliance with the Voting Rights Act. The court further held that pending further order of the court, the Board of Commissioners of the City would continue to operate as the governing body of the City.

Pursuant to the court's order, the City and the defendant City Commissioners submitted to the court an amended plan agreeable to counsel for the plaintiffs. With the consent of the parties, the court, by the Agreed Order, accepted and adopted the Defendants' Amended Plan (the "Defendants' Amended Plan") as a full and complete remedy for violations of the plaintiffs' rights in the case. The Agreed Order provided that the City Charter be amended as provided in the Defendants' Amended Plan.

The amendments to the City Charter provided for by the Agreed Order are extensive. Following are significant amendments to the City Charter; others are set forth in the Defendants' Amended Plan. Pursuant to the Agreed Order, the Board of Commissioners of the City and the present offices of the Mayor and the Commissioners were abolished as of noon, June 11, 1990. Under the Agreed Order, there is created the office of the Mayor, and all executive and administrative authority and responsibility vested in and executed by the Board of Commissioners and its individual members was vested exclusively in the Mayor. Further, there was created a City Council of the City, and all legislative and quasi-judicial authority and responsibility originally vested in and exercised by the Board of Commissioners was vested exclusively in the City Council. The Mayor is elected at-large and is not a member of the City Council, and the City Council is composed of nine members, each member being elected from one of nine districts within the geographic boundaries of the City.

Since June 11, 1990, at Noon, the City has operated under the Mayor/Council form of government.

The information set forth above is a summary of selected provisions of the Agreed Order and the Defendants' Amended Plan. The summaries of these documents do not purport to be complete and are qualified in their entirety by reference to the Agreed Order and Defendants' Amended Plan.

A copy of the Court's Judgment, the Agreed Order, the Defendants' Amended Plan, and two subsequent amendments thereto are included in the Appendix to the Charter Compilation.

References are included in some sections of the Charter where, in the opinion of the City Attorney, the Charter has been amended by the Court Order, but the inclusion of such references is not conclusive, nor is it intended to be comprehensive, but is only for the convenience of those consulting the Charter as a reminder to look at the Court Order. All provisions of the codified charter adopted before June 11, 1990 must be read as being subject to the superior authority of the Court Order where the Charter and the Court Order are in conflict.

City Council
1000 Lindsay Street(map)
Chattanooga, TN 37402

Phone:(423) 643-7170
Fax: (423) 643-7199

Photo by Phillip Stevens & Matt Lea