In a 3-1 decision at their meeting on Feb. 6, the Colusa City Council voted to fill the seat of the late Kirk Kelleher by appointment, and directed staff to advertise the vacancy and solicit applications from city residents. Kelleher died unexpectedly on Jan. 17, after suffering a stroke.
The council plans to review the candidates and make a decision on the appointment at their March 6 meeting. Under the California Government Code, the city council is required to make a decision on how to address the vacancy within 60 days after Kelleher’s death.
When it is made, the appointment will be good until the next general election, which takes place in November. At that point, Kelleher’s seat will go up for election for a two-year term. It would go up for election again in 2020, at that point for a normal, four-year term.
This year’s city council election will have an odd ballot, with a total of three seats up for election: two for a four year term, and one for a two year term. Candidates for city council in the November election, including the person who is ultimately appointed to fill Kelleher’s seat until that point, will have the option of running for either of the two four-year seats or the single two-year seat.
“People, when they choose to run, they get to pick which one they want to run for,” City Attorney Ryan Jones said at last week’s meeting. “It creates an interesting situation, but that’s the dynamic of how it all works.”
Filling the seat by appointment was one of three options the city council could have taken. The other options were to hold a special election or to send out an all-mail-in ballot to city residents.
City attorney Ryan Jones said that because of the way the dates lined up, the soonest the vacancy could be put up for special election was actually during the election in November, and noted that there was the potential for 2-2 splits if the council chose to leave the seat vacant until then. Jones also said that the all-mail-in ballot process would cost about $8,500.
Ultimately, the council decided on appointment. Councilman Dave Womble said that he was in favor of it because it saves the city money.
“I think we’re smart enough to appoint,” Reische added. “I’d go that route.”
Councilman Dave Markss, who was the lone member of the council to vote against the appointment, said that he felt that the decision should be left to the city’s voters, and that the seat be left vacant until the election in November.
“I’m opposed,” Markss said. “I’d rather have this go to the next November election, personally. That’s my thought on it.”