A gambling charge against Metro Councilman Ludye Wallace was bound over to the grand jury this morning. This latest legal setback for the veteran politician does not help his bid to secure a leadership post in the council.
At next Tuesday's Metro Council meeting, council members will vote for either Wallace or Erik Cole to serve as pro-tem of the council for the next year. Given Wallace's recent troubles, it might be more appropriate that his votes be tallied on a keno board.
Wallace and Cole are vying to replace councilman Rip Ryman as pro-tem of the Metro Council for a one year term. Historically, the slot has gone to the outgoing chair of the council's budget committee, which this year would have meant the title would go to Amanda McClendon. But with McClendon recently elected as a Davidson County Circuit Court judge, she will be unable to fill the slot, thus opening up the position for a popular vote by the council.
The role of pro-tem is rather limited. The duty of the pro-tem is typically to take over as chair of council meetings when the vice mayor is either taking a break or is absent from a session. However, current Vice Mayor Howard Gentry used the position to his advantage when Ronnie Steine unexpectedly resigned from the position in 2002.
In a special election in 2002 after Steine's resignation, Gentry used the pro-tem position as a weapon. Running against rival council member Chris Ferrell, Gentry said he had the complete trust and respect of the council and that is why he was pro-tem. While the argument was debatable, Gentry won the race.
Now with Wallace on the verge of taking the number two slot in the council, some members are worried.
Speaking confidentially to NashvillePost.com, several council members are concerned that Wallace serving as pro-tem would be an embarassment to the body and the city.
In early June, Wallace received a citation for gambling at what has been called a "high stakes poker game in his district." Wallace said the he was just "visiting constituents," but could not explain why he told Metro Police that he had $2,000 when he entered the "social club" and only $22 when law enforcement arrived. Some council watchers have joked since the arrest that Wallace probably called the police himself so he could get his money back.
Also of concern to council members is the fear that Wallace is one of several prominent indivdiuals that are the focus of a federal investigation into possible "shakedowns" of local developers in exchange for council influence.
Aside from the legal troubles, Wallace does have his supporters. The Nashville Scene reported earlier this month that council member Charlie Tygard had distributed a letter to colleagues urging them to support Wallace due to his longevity in office. Other council members tell NashvillePost.com that by their count, the vote between Wallace and Cole is tied, though some members still have not shown their cards.