Attorney outlines process for filling council vacancy

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

The resignation of Ridgecrest Mayor Pro Tem Jason Patin, who was this week hired to supervise the city’s recreation programs (see related story, this page), leaves a vacancy on the five-member city council.

The four remaining members of the council are expected to discuss filling that seat at tonight’s meeting (see also related story, this page).

According to a report from City Attorney Keith Lemieux, within 60 days of the resignation (i.e. by Oct. 8), the council must fill the vacancy either by appointment or by special election. The successor will serve out the remainder of Patin’s term, which will last through November 2014.

If the council opts to appoint the member, the Brown Act requires that candidate interviews to be conducted by the entire council in open session.

“While there is no statutory obligation to follow a set procedure to fill the vacancy, it is the recommendation of the city attorney to proceed as follows,” states a report prepared by City Manager Dennis Speer, outlining the three steps as announcing the vacancy and soliciting applicants, establishing a filing deadline and conducting interviews and selecting a candidate.

The cost of a special election would run upwards of $98,000, depending on the circumstances, said Speer.

Mayor Dan Clark was quoted in previously published reports that the city is not in a financial position to fund a special election. He stated that he hopes to see former Councilmember Ron Carter appointed, as he was the next-highest vote getter in the at-large council race.

Lemieux offered clarity on the issue of term limits, which were approved by voters last November, since Carter has already served four terms on the council, which ended in 2012.

“The municipal code states that ‘any person who has held the office of member of the city council for eight consecutive years shall not be eligible to hold such office until at least two years have passed since such person last held office. In no event shall any person be eligible to serve as a member of the City Council for more than eight consecutive years,” states Lemieux’s report.

However, he said, a subsection clarifies that members of the council sitting at the time of the adoption shall be considered in their first four-year term. “Councilmembers who lost or gave up their seats at the 2012 election are consequently eligible for appointment,” said Lemieux.

Story First Published: 2013-08-21