How will the assembly appoint a third seat?
September 5, 2019
Despite municipal elections one month away, the Haines Borough Assembly will be tasked with appointing a person to fill resigning member Will Prisciandaro’s seat by Oct. 10.
Last week, Prisciandaro resigned his seat after relocating to Vermont. Originally, he said he wished to serve remotely, but after the assembly meeting Aug. 20, he changed his mind.
“I wanted to stay on the assembly, but then I got to the point where I got people mad,” Prisciandaro said this week. “Last meeting changed my perspective on that.”
Because his resignation came after the candidate filing deadline for two open assembly seats, borough attorney Brooks Chandler advised the seat be filled by appointment, not election.
On Sept. 10, the assembly is scheduled to officially accept Prisciandaro’s resignation, and will have 30 days to appoint a qualified candidate to the vacancy. The assembly can choose to appoint any qualified resident that files a letter of intent to the assembly, including a losing candidate from the Oct. 1 election.
Assembly member Sean Maidy said he intends to propose a resolution at the Sept. 10 meeting that the third highest voter-getting in the October elections be appointed to Prisciandaro’s seat.
“In my opinion, if someone intended to be on the assembly, then they would be campaigning right now to be on the assembly,” Maidy said. “Otherwise, it just seems off.”
Assembly member Stephanie Scott said she agreed with the method.
“This particular situation is appropriate only because the appointment is so close to an election,” Scott said. “When the appointment has to come on the heels of a communitywide election, I will defer to the community.”
Assembly members Heather Lende and Tom Morphet each said that the third-highest vote getter isn’t necessarily going to be the best candidate, though they would both defer to it if no other filers come forward.
“If someone who puts their hat in for appointment is a better candidate than the third highest vote getter, I’m not going to commit myself to the third-highest vote getter,” Morphet said.
Lende said she tends not to favor the third-place candidate method.
“The third person will be someone that the majority of people didn’t vote for,” Lende said. “Also, without putting proper notice, we even had someone withdraw that may have kept her name in if there was a third seat.”
Assembly member Brenda Josephson wasn’t ready to commit one way or the other.
“I haven’t even thought about it,” Josephson said this week. “I’m just absolutely disappointed in (Prisciandaro’s) behavior on this,” she said. “He had plenty of time to allow the democratic process to work.”
When asked if he received pressure to resign after the filing deadline, Prisciandaro denied any influence.
“Nobody called me saying I should resign,” he said. “But a couple people said they’d support me if I didn’t want to stay on from afar.”
Borough clerk Alekka Fullerton emailed Prisciandaro on Aug. 16 asking if she could notice that the assembly will have three seats available for the election. Prisciandaro responded Aug 19 saying “I have decided to try and stay on the assembly as long as possible.”
The election won’t be officially certified, counting all absentee ballots, until Oct. 22, though Fullerton said the assembly will likely know the election results by their Oct. 8 meeting. “The certification of the election is to allow time for an election contest,” she said. “I anticipate that the appointee will be seated October 22 along with the two newly elected assembly members.” Last election, Maidy won his seat by two votes to Paul Rogers.