City attorney amends position on closed- session appointment

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

City attorney amends  position on closed- session appointmentA staff report presented by City Attorney Lloyd Pilchen acknowledged that the Ridgecrest City Council must discuss and select the appointee for the open council position in a public session of the Dec. 18 meeting.

At the Dec. 4 meeting, Pilchen outlined options for replacing the empty position left by Wallace Martin, who agreed to resign as a term in the legal challenge to his eligibility based upon his official city of residence.

The council could either appoint a member or order a special election. A majority of the council expressed concerns that, given the costs of an election and the limited time remaining on Martin’s term (which expires in approximately 11 months), they would rather solicit applications and make an appointment at next week’s meeting.

Pilchen told councilmembers that they also had the option of discussing the appointment in a closed-session meeting — held out of public view and without an opportunity for public comment.

His assertion was challenged at the meeting by a member of the public. Subsequently, a member of the council requested that Pilchen determine whether a closed-session discussion was, in fact, a legal option.

“At the last council meeting, the City Attorney was in error on this point,” states the report prepared by Pilchen.

While the Brown Act includes a provision for discussion about personnel, that “does not apply to councilmember appointments, because in this provision the meaning of ‘employee’ does not include a ‘member of a legislative body,’” wrote Pilchen.

Applicants have until noon on Monday, Dec. 16, to submit applications for the appointment. At press time, the list of current candidates was not available.

According to Pilchen’s staff report, the appointed councilmember can be sworn in at the Dec. 18 meeting.

The public is invited to attend.

The council will meet at 6 p.m. in City Council Chambers. The agenda was not available at press time, but should be posted online at www.ridgecrest-ca.gov.

Story First Published: 2019-12-13