June 29, 1993
Recently you asked MTAS to help interpret the City Charter. The charter calls for a mayor and six aldermen. Four aldermen are needed to make a quorum. It seems that recently several of the aldermen have resigned leaving only three. A sentence in the charter provides:
Upon a tie the Mayor may vote or be counted on to make a quorum.
You want to know whether this provision empowers you to also be an alderman under the present circumstances. I believe it does.
The crucial word here is "or." This clearly allows you to vote in case of a tie or be counted as one of the aldermen to make a quorum. Another provision in this section of the charter, Section 4, reads "Four votes shall be cast for any measure." This implies that the quorum, of whom the mayor may be a member, can pass a measure if they all vote for it.
I believe this view is supported by statutory rules of construction for legislative language. The city has a private act charter. The acts creating and amending the charter are to be interpreted by the same rules of construction as any other act by the legislature. As the case of Roddy Mfg. Co. v. Olsen, 661 S.W.2d 868 (Tenn. 1984), demonstrates, courts are restricted to natural and ordinary meaning of language used in a statute unless ambiguity requires further effort to find legislative intent.
The language in the charter is clear and unambiguous. The Mayor can vote to break a tie or to be a member of the quorum. A quorum, defined by Black's Law Dictionary, is "the number of members who must be present in a deliberative body before business may be transacted." To transact business then the mayor must be able to vote since four votes are needed to pass a measure under the charter. Taking all of this together, I feel that the charter can have no other meaning.
Thank you for contacting MTAS for help. Please feel free to call on me if I may be of any further assistance on this or any other matter.
Very truly yours,
MUNICIPAL TECHNICAL ADVISORY SERVICE