Watchdog: Glad City Council will let voters fill Agopian’s vacant seat, needs to adopt a policy

Watchdog-LogoBy Barbara Zivica

Regrettably Antioch has still not adopted a policy in regard to filling a City Council vacancy since the situation arose in 2000 when Donald Freitas was sworn in as Mayor, leaving a vacant council seat. Shortly thereafter, the council, consisting of then Mayor Mary Rocha (having just lost her bid for county supervisor), Arne Simonsen and Brian Kalinowski voted to appoint council candidate Jim Conley, third-place finisher in the previous month’s election and the only candidate council members could agree on.

Previously, a vacancy had occurred in the Mayor’s seat, in 1994 when Joel Keller was elected to the BART Board mid-way through his term as Mayor. None of the then Council Members, including Mayor Pro Tem Allen Payton, and Council Members Mary Rocha, Elizabeth Rimbault and Ralph Hernandez, could get the necessary three votes for the appointment. So, the council majority chose to appoint former Police Chief Len Herendeen to fill the position for the remaining two years.

A vacancy occurred again in 2008 when Jim Davis was sworn in as Mayor, leaving his prior council seat with two years remaining on his term. Unfortunately, the council did not appoint the third place finisher, Arne Simonsen who was one of 14 applicants to fill the vacant seat. They decided instead to appoint Martha Parsons, the union-backed Democrat fundraising consultant for Torlakson and DeSaulnier.

The options for addressing a vacancy on council remain the same now as they did then:

1) Call a special election to fill the vacant seat.

2) Invite applications for appointment to fill the city council vacancy and establish dates and rules for the application process, or

3) Appoint a person to fill the Council vacancy until the election results in November are certified and the elected council member seated.

According to the city attorney, not appointing someone and waiting for the November election would incur no additional staff time or costs and involve some savings as to the salary and benefits provided council members. The option of appointing someone directly would have the opposite effect.

Thankfully the council agreed unanimously to fill Gary Agopians’s vacant seat through the election process.

The city received fourteen applications but only ten filed their nomination papers by the filing deadline. Eight qualified for the ballot. The city clerk is awaiting verification of signature count for another candidate and one did not qualify due to insufficient number of valid signatures of registered Antioch voters.

Councilman Tony Tiscareno is one of the qualified applicants. He was appointed by the council to complete Wade Harper’s term when Harper was elected mayor in 2012, midway through his first term on the council. Tiscareno must run for election this November in order to retain his council seat.

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