Grosse Pointe Farms Discusses Council Vacancy
Grosse Pointe Farms officials will be accepting letters of interest along with a resume from any resident wishing to fill the vacant seat on city council following the passing of Mayor Pro Tem Joseph Leonard.
The Grosse Pointe Farms city council will decide in the coming weeks how to fill the vacant seat following the passing of Mayor Pro Tem Joseph Leonard. Council members discussed their options this week.
Among the options are
- the now six-member council may appoint somone, who would serve until November 2013 when there would be an election to determine who would fill the rest of the term that expires in November 2015
- or the council may opt to hold a special city election to allow voters to choose a person, which would happen in February 2013
City Attorney William Burgess gave council the many details that would accompany either decision. Ideally, officials would be able to have the seat on the November ballot during the presidential election, he said, but at this point it is not feasible, Burgess said, explaining why the election would have to be in February if they appoint a candidate.
If the council chooses to appoint a resident to the position, they must do so within 60 days of when Leonard passed away--which is only a few days after their next regular council meeting in October.
Leonard passed away Aug. 19 following a lengthy battle with cancer. Not only had he served as a city councilman, but Leonard retired from Grosse Pointe Farms as the Public Service Director in 2003. He was elected by his fellow council members to serve as the Mayor Pro Tem following his most recent re-election in November.
At issue with how to handle Leonard's replacement is the lengthy of the term to be fulfilled. Being that Leonard was re-elected last November, the majority of his four-year term remains.
Another consideration by the council, mentioned by Mayor James Farquhar, is an appointment followed by a subsequent election in November 2013 means five seats will be up for election at one time--the mayor plus four council seats. Typically the rotation makes is four and three at any given time.
Leonard's death is the third the council has dealt with in the last few years. Councilman Doug Roby passed and then Councilman Terry Davis passed away in August 2011. In both of those cases, the council appointed former councilman Martin West, who volunteered to complete their terms.
Both Roby and Davis had less than half their term left to be fulfilled--a point made by some of the council members this week.
City Manager Shane Reeside estimated a special election in February to cost between $10,000 to $15,000. Since it would likely be the only item on the ballot, he believes it would be on the lower end of the range, he said.
Councilman Lev Wood said he is opposed to spending that much money and said these are the situations for which the council is qualified to make the call.
Mayor James Farquhar, who said he has yet to determine which way he wants to go, highlighted that most of Leonard's term is yet to be filled. He is also concerned about having two appointed council members.
Councilman Louis Theros highlighted the fact that he would prefer if the council decides to appoint a candidate, he would prefer they declare that they are not going to seek election in 2013. His concern, which was shared by others, in part is giving a re-election campaign to someone rather than having the voters truly choose the candidate they feel best represents them.
Theros recalled the incumbent election rates to be in the high 90s close to 100 percent, explaining he was unsure if he willing to give a person selected by the six-member council that kind of power.
The first time West agreed to fill a vacancy, he also promised not to seek election. He did not make the same promise when he was asked to fill the second vacancy, which some other council members were uncomfortable with.
Wood also brought up voter turnout, which Reeside predicted would low unless there were another issue to bring voters to the poll.
Councilman Peter Waldmeir said he would rather have 100 residents vote than have the six council members make the decision if they decide to hold a special election. He said he was not prepared to make a decision this week on the issue.
The worst outcome, Waldmeir said, is if the council decides to host a special election and then only one person files to seek the seat because the city would be required to have the election.
Ultimately, the council decided to accept letters of interest along with a resume from any resident who is interested in filling the seat. Such information should be submitted to City Manager Shane Reeside by 4 p.m. Oct. 1. In addition to the letter and resume, the council would like those interested to also state whether they would intend to seek election at the end of the appointed term or whether they would promise to not do so.
The council will hold a special work session at 7 p.m. Oct. 1 to discuss the letters and further discuss what they would like to do with the vacancy.