April 12, 2012 | Vol. 42, No. 15

Assembly considers appointments

Members of the Haines Borough’s government affairs and services committee last week debated the role of special elections in filling assembly vacancies.

The April 3 meeting followed the assembly’s failure last June to appoint a replacement for a seat vacated by Greg Goodman. The decision was left to voters in the October municipal election.

The assembly’s action last summer sparked a recall campaign, based on a borough code requirement that a vacancy be filled within 30 days. That timeline prevents the assembly from calling a special election to select a replacement.

Assemblyman Daymond Hoffman last week said a special election would take some of the “ugliness” out of filling vacancies. Member Debra Schnabel countered that the assembly might “default to not making decisions.”

“If we as a community cannot find a way to utilize procedure that is universally recognized as a process, then I think we need to look to what our own, individual problems might be,” Schnabel said.

She also referred to the cost of special elections as a deterrent and noted appointments run only until the next regular election, when local voters have their say.

Resident Melissa Aronson voiced support for code including the option of a special election for vacancies.

“I would really encourage us to give whatever power we can to the electorate,” she said.

“I agree with you,” borough clerk Julie Cozzi responded. “However, we have a representative government, and we elect our officials for a reason, and that’s to represent the people. We can’t just have everything go to a vote of the people.”

Hoffman, Schnabel and committee chair Steve Vick attended the meeting and all expressed interest in scrapping the requirement for appointees to receive at least four votes from the assembly. Instead, a simple majority of remaining assembly members would be sufficient, they said. Members last fall were deadlocked in several 3-2 votes to fill Goodman’s seat.

Mayor Stephanie Scott said she would prefer a special election for most vacancies and was reluctant to agree to appointment by a simple majority.

“I’ve always been troubled by the idea that three of the representatives are then choosing the representative for all the people,” she said. “It seems to just keep whittling away at that broad base.”

The committee was assigned to give recommendations on a proposed ordinance to update the procedure for filling an assembly vacancy.