The Hamilton County Election Commission weighed the prospect of denying former City Councilman Yusuf Hakeem a spot on March's city ballot, but ultimately opted to allow the candidate to remain.
Hakeem, who is running against Councilman Peter Murphy in District 9, did not file any campaign finance disclosures between 2005 and this year until after he had qualified for the race. Stuart James, an attorney and former Hamilton Democratic Party chairman, suggested that Hakeem be disqualified because he waited to file semi-annual disclosures until after securing his candidacy.
"Mr. Hakeem filed his last disclosure in 2005 and hasn't done a disclosure since—until after qualifying for the city race," James said. "I don't think that's in compliance with the law … These disclosures are important; we're handling voter money."
Commission attorney Chris Clem said that upon checking with the attorney general's office, it had been determined that it would be up to the commission to determine whether or not Hakeem would remain eligible. Clem said that there were not any existing court opinions relating to a situation similar to Hakeem's and added that there was not time to get an opinion from the attorney general before the March ballot's final approval.
"We certainly don't have time," Clem said.
Commission Chairman Michael Walden suggested the group err on the side of the candidate and allow the voters to decide if it would become an issue in the election. Walden added a provision to the group's decision, allowing Hakeem to remain and stating that the commission maintained a neutral position.
Neither Hakeem nor Murphy were present.
Hakeem, who represented District 9 from 1990 until 2006, departed his post on City Council after being appointed by former Gov. Phil Bredesen to serve on the state Board of Probation and Parole.
Updated @ 9:37 a.m. on 1/9/13 to correct the spelling of Yusuf Hakeem's name.