Nine Interested in Farms Council Seat Vacancy
Council wrestles with appointment or special election for vacant seat.
Leonard passed away Aug. 19 following a lengthy battle with cancer. He had served as a city councilman after retiring from Grosse Pointe Farms as the Public Service Director in 2003. He was re-elected in November and was chosen to serve as the Mayor Pro Tem by his fellow council members.
During a work session Monday, the council discussed how to proceed with the selection of a new council member from the group of interested residents that had submitted letters and/or resumes by the council's published deadline of Oct. 1.
The council's published announcement of the council vacancy called for interested residents to submit a letter of interest and to declare their intentions about running in future elections if appointed to the seat.
Nine individuals responded to the vacancy announcement, among them a former Grosse Pointe Public Schools school board president John Steininger and former Councilman Leonard's daughter, Patricia M. Leonard.
Others expressing an interest in the council seat are:
- James K. Fisher
- Doug Jones
- Mark D. Steiner
- Sean P. Cotton
- Lisa Mower Gandelot
- Joe Ricci
- Elizabeth Mary Vogel
Mayor James Farquhar spoke highly of the quality of the applicants and their collective experience.
Appoint or Elect?
The council wrestled with primarily two options open to them--appoint someone to the seat or hold a special election to allow voters to choose the new council member.
The timeline for the council to appoint a new member is tight. The appointment must come within 60 days of the vacancy of the seat, which is a few days after the council's next regular meeting on October 15.
If the council decides to appoint someone to the seat, that person would serve until November 2013 when there would be an election to determine who would fill the rest of Leonard's term that expires in November 2015.
That would make four members of the council, plus the mayor, up for election at the same time. Typically the rotation is four and three seats most election years.
In previous discussions, Councilman Louis Theros expressed his concern that he would prefer that the interested parties declare that they are not going to seek election in 2013. Other council members also share Theros' view that an appointed individual should be limited to the appointment period and not seek the seat beyond the next election.
Special Election Option
On the other hand, if the council opts to hold a special city election to allow voters to choose, which would happen in February 2013, that person would be able to serve the remainder of the term until November 2015.
Of concern to many council members is the hefty price tag of a special election--an estimated $10,000, said City Manager Shane Reeside.
City Attorney William Burgess explained that if the council chose to hold a special election, the city would not be limited to the nine people who had submitted by the Oct. 1 deadline, but would essentially start with "a clean slate" by re-opening the opportunity for residents to run for election.
Residents could seek nomination to the special election ballot with a required number of signatures or by paying a $100 filing fee.
Councilman Peter Waldmeir expressed his concern that if the council decides to go forward with a special election that many of the applicants have stated they are only interested in the seat until the next regular election by voters.
City Manager Shane Reeside said he thought at least two of the nine would run in a special election.
To Be Determined
Ultimately, the council decided to have Reeside contact all nine applicants to ask if they would commit to not running in the November 2013 election if appointed and also if they would be willing to run in a special election in February 2013.
The council will take action on the vacancy at their regular meeting on October 15.