East Palo Alto City Clerk Nora Pimentel and City Attorney John Nagel
are shown during the November 6, 2013 East Palo Alto City Council meeting.
The East Palo Alto City Council took a major step in the city's effort to replace council member David Woods, who resigned from the council this past October.
At a special council meeting on Wednesday, November 6, the four remaining council members voted to accept applications from interested community residents and to appoint the applicant with the most council votes to fill Woods' vacated seat.
Woods announced his resignation from the council in an email sent to three of his council colleagues on October 1. He later submitted a formal letter of resignation to the mayor and the city council that was dated October 17, 2013.
In the letter, Woods said, “I want to thank you for the opportunity of having served with you. Due to health and personal reasons I can no longer commit the time required to serve on the City Council. Therefore, I am resigning my position of City Councilmember effective the date of this letter.”
In deciding how to fill the vacant council seat, council members were given the option of filling the vacancy by appointment or of holding a special election. If the decision were made to hold the special election, then the council could appoint a person to fill the vacant position until the date of the election.
Council members were told that they had 60 days from the date of Woods' letter to fill his seat or to call the special election. The election would have to be held "on the next regularly established election date not less than 114 days from the call of the special election."
John Nagel, the city’s attorney, recommended that the council use the appointment process citing, as a key factor, the cost of holding a special election, which would cost the city $120,000. Nagel also noted that East Palo Alto would be the only city holding the special election and the election would have to be held on April 8, 2014, the next regularly scheduled election date.
Nagel said that by the time the results of the special election were certified, there would be 7 months left before the expiration of Woods' term of office in December 2014.
Not everyone at the meeting agreed with the appointment process. East Palo Alto resident Michael Francois recommended that the council chose Peter Evans, the former city council member, who trailed the three winning council members in the last city council election that took place on November 2, 2010.
Francois mentioned that the council could also choose other candidates, like former city council member Donna Rutherford, who also ran for a seat on the city council during the 2010 election.
Mayor Ruben Abrica responded that it would be illegal for the council to appoint someone that way. He also said that the appointment process would be open for any of the former council members and council candidates to apply.
The council voted unanimously to accept the resolution establishing the appointment procedure. The council and the staff agreed to let the public know that interested residents could apply for Woods’ vacated seat, that the necessary application would be available by 5 p.m. on November 7, 2013 and would be accepted online and in person until 5 p.m, on Monday, December 2, 2013.
After the deadline, interviews would be scheduled with the applicants, who would be expected to make presentations before the East Palo Alto City Council, that would then vote on the applicants.
At the end of their discussion on the subject, council members agreed that the applicant selected to fill Woods' vacated seat would have to get at least three council votes to be appointed. The current goal is to have the winning applicant selected by December 16.
For questions about the application process, contact Nora Pimentel, the East Palo Alto city clerk by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (650) 853-3100.
Updated information: Applications for the vacant council seat are now available online at the City of East Palo Alto website - http://www.ci.east-palo-alto.ca.us/DocumentCenter/View/749.
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Henrietta J. Burroughs, the author of this article, can be reached by email at email@example.com.