Vacancy will be council's job to fill

Posted: Monday, February 17, 2003

Kenai City Council member Duane Bannock's appointment to director of the state Division of Motor Vehicles means he will relinquish his council seat, leaving a vacancy in the seven-member board.

Bannock plans to move to Anchorage for his new job. His last council meeting will be Wednes-day. Once he resigns from his council position, it will be up to the remaining council members to fill the spot.

The Kenai City Charter stipulates that vacancies in the council be filled by a majority vote of the remaining council members. The appointee serves until the next election, when he or she can run for election.

Other than that, the code doesn't offer much direction as to how council members should go about making this appointment.

"They will have to make that decision jointly as to how they're going to approach it and what they're going to do," said City Manager Linda Snow.

Theoretically, the council could pick a name out of a hat or award the position to whoever sings the best rendition of "Yankee Doodle Dandy."

What's more likely is the council will decide to advertise the position and accept applications or resumes from anyone interested before making a decision, Snow said.

"That's usually what they do," she said. "But they may not do that. They aren't required to do that -- it's up to them. The council can decide the process they wish."

Accepting letters of intent and resumes and conducting interviews is the procedure that's been used in the past.

When former Kenai council member Hal Smalley was elected to the state Legislature in November 1998, he resigned his council seat. The remaining council members accepted letters of intent and resumes from people interested in the position, interviewed the candidates and voted to appoint William Frazer to fill the seat from Feb. 17, 1999, until the next election. In October 1999, voters elected him to finish the rest of the term that Smalley had originally been elected for.

When council member Ray Measles resigned his seat in July 1999, the council did not appoint anyone to fill the seat, but that was a special circumstance and not the norm.

Since Measles resigned so close to the regular election, the council decided to leave the seat empty for a few months until voters had a chance to fill it. They chose council member Pat Porter.

Since Bannock's resignation is happening so early in the year, the council likely will fill it. According to Porter, the council hasn't discussed the matter yet, but she assumes it will accept applications for the position and appoint a replacement.

With budget season on the horizon and the city already facing a deficit budget made worse by Big Kmart's imminent departure from the city, whoever is appointed to the seat will be faced with some difficult revenue and policy decisions.

"The (meetings) on the budget and work sessions are usually scheduled in April and May, so I suspect somebody will be appointed well before that time," Snow said.

"On behalf of the administration, I would hope something like that would happen. I would like to see a full council at that time, but if that's not possible, business will continue."

A full seven-member council negates the risk of deadlock votes, but the council could continue to function with six members.

According to Deputy City Clerk Sharon Harris, the clerk's office already has received inquiries about the vacant seat from people in the community.

The council will have its first opportunity to discuss the vacancy at its Wednesday meeting. Council members will likely decide then how they will go about the appointment.

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