By Allen Payton
The oath of office ceremony for incoming mayor, Dr. Sean Wright, re-elected councilwoman Monica Wilson and new councilman Lamar Thorpe is scheduled for this Thursday, December 8 during a special meeting in the Council Chambers at City Hall. Although it’s not being held on the customary and traditional second Tuesday of December, following the certification of election, there is precedent for holding a special meeting to swear in a new mayor and council members, as happened in 2012.
Wright said that the meeting will be streamed live on the City’s website and if not shown live on Comcast local cable TV channel 24, like regular council meetings, it will be recorded for airing later, so that more Antioch residents who want to can watch.
But, while the the meeting is scheduled to begin at 5:00 p.m., according to the agenda under Item 1, “If Certification for the November 8, 2016 election is received from the Contra Costa County Election Department prior to the Council’s December 8th Special Meeting, Staff recommends the Council adopt the resolution confirming the results of the November 8, 2016 General Election. If Certification is not received, Staff recommends continuing the item to a future meeting.”
Yet, according to the Elections Code section, which City Manager Steve Duran provided, when asked about scheduling the oaths of office on the 8th – which has been in the works for awhile – instead of the next regular council meeting on Tuesday, December 13th, it states the canvass must be completed before installing new officers.
10263. Upon the completion of the canvass and before installing the new officers, the governing body shall adopt a resolution reciting the fact of the election and the other matters that are enumerated in Section 10264. The governing body shall declare elected the persons for whom the highest number of votes were cast for each office.
(a) Except as provided in subdivision (b), the governing body shall meet at its usual place of meeting no later than the fourth Friday after the election to declare the results and to install the newly elected officers.
(b) For a consolidated election, the governing body shall meet at its usual place of meeting no later than the next regularly scheduled city council meeting following presentation of the 28-day canvass of the returns, or at a special meeting called for this purpose, to declare the results and to install the newly elected officers.
Therefore, if certification is not received and voted on by the council on Thursday night and must be continued to a future meeting, then the oaths of office must also be continued to a future meeting, both of which would have to occur next Tuesday, Dec. 13th, which is the “next regularly scheduled city council meeting following presentation of the 28-day canvass of the returns.”
One cannot be done without the other occurring first, which is why the certification is on the agenda prior to the the ceremony, unless the oaths performed on Thursday night would merely be ceremonial. If so, the new mayor-elect and council member-elect would not be able to take their seats and the reorganization of the Council, under agenda Item 2 couldn’t occur and would have to also be postponed until next Tuesday.
However, in response to an email asking about the matter and if the canvass of returns also referred to as the certification of the election, will be done by this Thursday at 5:00 p.m., Duran responded, “The City is the governing body for the City election, even though the election was consolidated. The Elections Office said they will certify today.”
County Clerk Joe Canciamilla confirmed that, today, as well.
“We are done and just in the process of completing the paperwork necessary to send off to the SOS (Secretary of State),” he said this morning. “Certification will be official shortly and Arne was previously advised he could pick up his packet at 3 pm or thereafter.”
That advisement occurred in a letter Canciamilla sent out to city clerks and elections officials in the county, last month.
As for why the ceremony is being held this Thursday, instead of on the regular council meeting night, as some Antioch residents have been wondering, Duran had said previously it’s because the agenda was filling up and there wasn’t enough room or time for the ceremony, next Tuesday.
City Clerk Arne Simonsen confirmed that, today.
“Yes, the meeting on the 13th is a long one with closed session at 5:30 pm, an alphabet soup of items on consent and four public hearing items, in addition to regular agenda items,” he said. “That is why the decision was made to have the swearing in on the 8th.”
When asked why there couldn’t have been a special council meeting, next Thursday, December 15th to deal with the agenda items that couldn’t get done on the 13th, so the ceremony could be held that night, neither Duran nor Mayor Wade Harper, who in his position works with the city manager to set council agendas, did not respond.
When asked if he was included in the decision for holding the oath of office ceremony on Thursday, Wright responded, “As the Mayor elect I am very happy with the way that the swearing in ceremony is taking shape. The meeting will be recorded and streamed live on our website so that citizens and family members who are unable to attend can watch. I have also been told that they are working with CCTV to broadcast live as well.”
“As we worked together to find a time that worked for our families and supporters the 5 PM start worked well and showed a willingness to compromise,” he continued. “I would love this meeting to be a celebration of a new beginning for me as Mayor and our council. I hope that it can be free of controversy and be the beginning of a positive future for Antioch.”
“In such a close election with the results not giving us a clear cut winner until this weekend, I have not presumed victory and therefore not sat down with city staff and elected council members,” Wright explained.“This definitely puts us at a disadvantage when it comes to agendas but I have been in talks with Arne Simonsen today regarding this Thursday’s agenda and will sit down with Steve tomorrow to go over Thursday and next Tuesday’s agenda. I am attempting to meet with council members this week and will make sure that I have a say in what is on the agenda and am ready to discuss those items included for Tuesday the 13th.”
“Again I will reiterate the hope that this Thursday is a celebration of a new council with a positive fresh start,” he added.
However, council meeting agendas only require a 72-hour public notice. Since the final results of the election were known last Saturday night, they could have waited to work with the new mayor-elect to set the agenda for either next Tuesday and/or this Thursday. Even if the results weren’t certified until Thursday, as Canciamilla’s office has the legal limit to do, next Tuesday’s council meeting agenda could have been decided that day, with the mayor-elect included.
Wright also had to make sure it was at 5:00 p.m., so he can attend his children’s school Christmas plays, later that night. In addition, the Antioch Chamber of Commerce had to move back by a half-hour, their annual Chairman’s Mixer to start at 5:30 p.m., so as not to conflict with the ceremony. Plus, since Duran and Harper had been planning for awhile to hold the ceremony and council reorganization this week, instead of waiting to find out who the new mayor would be and including him in the planning of the ceremony and the agenda for his first meeting on the 13th, Wilson had scheduled people to fly in to attend it on Thursday.
“All oaths of office will be performed at the same meeting,” Wright said. “The Chamber also worked with us and was flexible with the start time of the Mixer to allow those that wanted to attend both meetings the opportunity to do so. Those wanting to join the Chairman’s Mixer following the meeting are welcome to attend.”
That will be hosted by new Chamber CEO and outgoing chairman, Richard Pagano and held at Tailgaters in Antioch.
So, beginning this Thursday, December 8th at 5:00 p.m., Antioch will have a new mayor and mayor pro tem, as Thorpe garnering the most votes in the council race, will be granted that two-year title, according to city ordinance, by a perfunctory vote of the council. The two new members will join Wilson, current Mayor Pro Tem Lori Ogorchock, and Councilman Tony Tiscareno, both of whom aren’t up for re-election until 2018.
The council reorganization will include a brief bit of what will appear to be musical chairs as the members literally change seats. But, it will not include the nomination of council members by Wright to various city committees and regional boards on which they represent the city. Those require a vote of approval by the council and, according to Simonsen, they will be on the agenda for the January 10th council meeting.
The Council Chambers at City Hall are located at 3rd and H Streets, between 2nd and 3rd in Antioch’s historic, downtown Rivertown.