How Will The City Council Fill Its Vacant Seat?

City Hall Vacancy Boulder City, Nevada

Update: Last night, at the City Council meeting the Council elected to appoint the vacant seat left by Warren Harhay. Because of the rule that this must take place within 30 days of the vacancy, they Council must have this done on or by November 21st. So there has now been the announcement of a Special City Council meeting to take place next Monday, November 18th at City Hall at 5pm.

The City Clerk has requested that the Council please share any written correspondence for the post, so that all Council members and the public will be able to review them. We spoke with the staff at City Hall, and they emphasize that this process needs to be as transparent as possible.

NOTE: THERE ARE CHANGES TO THIS ARTICLE AFTER INITIAL PUBLICATION AS NOTED BELOW

We are all waiting to see tonight what the City Council will decide to do regarding the vacancy left by the sad passing of Councilman Warren Harhay.

The choice for the Council is much as it was less than five months ago, when they had to decide on how to fill the vacant seat left by then, newly elected Mayor, Kiernan McManus.

At that time, we know they decided to appoint, rather than conduct another election, and from that process, Councilwoman Folda was added to our City Council.

Proponents for the Council to appoint to fill this new vacancy, cite the cost to the taxpayers (estimated at $30,000 – $50,000) plus the time involved, as well as the closeness of the regular scheduled election, (less than two years away), all as being valid reasons to keep it simple – make an appointment to the seat and move on.

Also in the mix of concerns is the desire of Mayor McManus to have a review of several of the contracts of key City Staff, notably the City Manager and City Attorney. A measure was brought at the last Council meeting to hire a special council to review those contracts, but the measure failed to pass. If we have another election, according to the current employment contracts, then neither of these positions can be replaced six months before, or after, an election. So an election would essentially start the clock over on these at-will City positions. (Mind you, that does not stop the proposed contract review process, only the ability of the Council to potentially act should they wish to make a change).

Opponents of making another appointment who would prefer an election be held, cite the following reasons: 1. Should we have a City Council where two of the five positions are appointed rather than elected? (That’s 40% – a big percentage when you think about it). 2. Back in June when the first appointment was made, Councilman Harhay had wanted an election at that time – so should that not count for something now, as it is his seat that is being filled?

If you need a refresher, at the City Council meeting on June 25th Councilman Harhay stated that he had concerns about all four existing council members having been endorsed by the closed Facebook Group the BCCA (Boulder City Community Alliance), and he feared that this created a possible ‘taint’ (not my words folks, his…) on any appointment they might decide upon. You can check that out on YouTube HERE, at the 38:40 mark. However, Harhay was overruled by a vote of 3 to 1 in favor of making an appointment.

What is interesting, is that the appointment process is really without any formal guidelines at all, in how it is to be conducted. The only requirement is that any candidate must fulfill the minimum 2-year’s residency in Boulder City. That’s it. UPDATE: ANY CANDIDATE MUST ALSO BE A QUALIFIED ELECTOR AND US CITIZEN.

Back in July after the appointment of Councilwoman Folda, one question we were asked a lot was, “how many people applied or expressed interest in the job?” The answer is – no one knows. We know probably all four Council members at the time received input and interest, and open meeting laws prevent more than two of them from discussing any item they might need to decide upon.

We contacted the City to find out how many people expressed interest. The City received only ONE email from someone. But this person was not either of the two names that were nominated by the City Council members, those being Judy Dechaine and Tracy Folda. Obviously people can always email/call our City Council members directly, and they are not obligated to share that information with us. UPDATE: WE HAVE LEARNED THAT CITY COUNCIL IS SUPPOSED TO SHARE THIS INFORMATION WITH THE PUBLIC. So then one asks the question of why this didn’t happen before?

But some have noted that many (or all) of this current City Council ran on an election platform of transparency, of ending the ‘good old boys’ network of the past, and ‘no more nepotism and cronyism’. Yet the appointment process was not made visible to the public in any way on who applied for the spot, or what the thought processes were of who was ultimately nominated. And the luck of the draw (literally out of a teacup) pulling Tracy Folda’s name created a situation where the Co-founder of the BCCA became the new member of City Council. And, the BCCA is an organization that makes official political endorsements of specific candidates, and that the other three members of Council were all endorsed by.

We live in a representative democracy – we elect people to represent us, and then have to let them do their jobs – that’s how this works. We’ll be watching this decision tonight with great interest to see what they decide and how they will proceed.

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