Merriam started the clock running this week on a 30-day time limit for interested candidates to file applications for two council seats which became vacant last month.
Two city councilors resigned at the same meeting last month, creating the rate occurrence of the simultaneous vacancies to be filled by the council. It also uncovered a quirk in city statutes that the council plans to rectify before it conducts interviews for the positions.
Chad Rowe and Todd Boyer resigned from the council in early December. That leaves vacant seats in Wards 1 and 4 to be filled by the council. Both terms expire in 2017.
It was determined that no mechanism exists to break a tie vote if the council deadlocks on two candidates for the office. In Merriam’s vacancy procedure, the council interviews candidates for the seat in open session and then votes for the replacement. The candidate with the most votes fills the seat.
Since two seats are open, that leaves the eight-member council with only six voting members and the possibility of a 3-3 split on electing a new member. The council procedures call for a process of reducing the number of candidates for each spot to two through voting. The council members will then vote for one of the two finalists in a written ballot that will record each councilors’ vote and be treated as an open record. The council interviews, which could include a question session or be limited to presentations, also will be conducted in an open meeting.
After a discussion about the procedure this week, the council and Mayor Ken Sissom agreed to have the city attorney draft an amendment that will allow the mayor to break a tie. The mayor is not part of the original vote.
That amendment will come before the council and is expected to be put in place before the council begins its selection process. The Feb. 23 council meeting is the earliest that the council can begin selecting the two new council members.
Interested candidates should file a letter of interest and statement of qualifications with the city during the 30-day time period. The council has another 30 days after the filing deadline to conduct its vote.