By Ron Munden – February 12, 2021
On February 4, 2020 I wrote an article titled, “OPINION: MARSHALL CITY COMMISSIONERS MAKE ANOTHER UNFORCED ERROR”.
In the article I said:
The Marshall City Commissioners have decided they will put themselves in the position of picking winners and losers in the District 2 election by making an appointment to fill Gail Beil’s seat for two months.
Several people have said that they think the city charter does not permit the City Commissioners to make the temporary appointment of a City Commissioner and the position should remain vacant until the next May election.
The City Charter states:
Sec. 35. – Same—Election therefor.
In case of the vacancy of the office of any elective officer by death, resignation, failure or refusal to qualify, or for any other cause, the commission shall order an election to take place to fill such vacancy, at a date to be fixed, not later than thirty days after such vacancy occurs, and shall give ten days’ notice thereof, published in the official newspaper of the city. In case of a vacancy in the commission, the remaining commissioners shall do and perform all of the duties incumbent on such officer until the election and qualification of a successor. In case of a vacancy in the office of city secretary, the commission shall appoint some suitable person to perform the duties of such office until such city secretary is elected and qualified.
(Char. 1909, § 60)
It is clear to me that the position should remain empty until the next election. Prior Commissioners must have agreed with me. When Katie Jones died in December, her seat remained empty until the next May election. When Louis Block resigned, his seat remained open until the next May election.
Looking at this from an engineering standpoint it is clear that the City Charter does not want the Commissioners to make a temporary appointment of a Commissioner. I have been told that some lawyer has reviewed the City Charter and said that the Charter is ambiguous so the City Commissioners could decide what they wanted to do. If that is the case, the Commissioners should follow the precedent set by prior City Commissions.
The Commission made a wrong decision. At Thursday night’s city commission meeting they will select a temporary commissioner who will serve for 8 to 10 weeks before the next election. Their selection will signal to Marshall voters who they want to be the next commissioner for District 2. This is exactly what the City Charter wanted to prevent. The City Commissioners made an unforced error and it has placed them in a no-win situation.
In my earlier article I said:
There is still one final off-ramp for the Commissioners.
In other cities and counties where I have lived, I have seen two temporary appointments to positions filled by elected officials. In both cases the appointment was made contingent on the person agreeing not to run for the position during the next election. The appointment became a caretaker appointment, not an appointment that launched a political career.
This is the last-off ramp for the Commissioners. Otherwise the Commissioners are headed for a concrete wall at a high rate of speed.
Unfortunately, based on the past actions of these Commissioners, I see a concrete wall in their future.
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