Vacancies can occur in county offices for a variety of reasons. According to the state constitution, county officials "shall be removed from office for malfeasance or neglect of duty," as these terms are defined by the legislature. Tenn. Const., art. VII, § 1. Similarly, court clerks may be removed for "malfeasance, incompetency or neglect of duty." Tenn. Const., art. VI, § 13. According to statute, any of the following results in a vacancy in office:
- Death of the incumbent;
- Resignation, when permitted by law;
- Ceasing to be a resident of the state, district, circuit, or county for which elected or appointed;
- Decision of a competent tribunal declaring the election or appointment void or the office vacant;
- An act of the General Assembly abridging the term of office, where it is not fixed by the Constitution;
- Sentencing the incumbent, by any competent tribunal in this or any other state, to the penitentiary, subject to restoration if the judgment is reversed but not if the incumbent is pardoned;
- Adjudicating the incumbent insane; or
- Failure to satisfy bond requirement.
T.C.A. §§ 8-48-101, 8-19-117.
As stated above, moving out of the state, district, circuit, or county from which one was elected or appointed is a cause of vacancy under T.C.A. § 8-48-101. If disputed, the determination of residency is a question of fact. See Bailey v. Greer, 468 S.W.2d 327 (Tenn. Ct. App. 1971). A declaratory judgment may be necessary to determine residency. The following principles, outlined in T.C.A. § 2-2-122, are helpful but not binding in making the determination of residency:
- The residence of a person is that place in which the person's habitation is fixed, and to which, whenever the person is absent, the person has a definite intention to return;
- A change of residence is generally made only by the act of removal joined with the intent to remain in another place. There can be only one (1) residence;
- A person does not become a resident of a place solely by intending to make it the person's residence. There must be appropriate action consistent with the intention;
- A person does not lose residence if, with the definite intention of returning, the person leaves home and goes to another country, state or place within this state for temporary purposes, even if of one or more years duration;
- The place where a married person's spouse and family have their habitation is presumed to be the person's place of residence, but a married person who takes up or continues abode with the intention of remaining at a place other than where the person's family resides is a resident where the person abides;
- A person may be a resident of a place regardless of the nature of the person's habitation, whether house or apartment, mobile home or public institution, owned or rented; however, a commercial address may not be used for residential purposes, unless the applicant provides evidence of such applicant's residential use of such address;
- A person does not gain or lose residence solely by reason of the person's presence or absence while employed in the service of the United States or of this state, or while a student at an institution of learning, or while kept in an institution at public expense, or while confined in a public prison or while living on a military reservation; and
- No member of the armed forces of the United States, or such member's spouse or dependent, is a resident of this state solely by reason of being stationed in this state.
Information on Removal from Office-Ouster can be found under Ethics.