NORWALK – The Norwalk City Council on Tuesday failed to agree on how to fill a coveted vacant seat left by former Councilmember Marcel Rodarte, who resigned last month.
Unable to garner the three votes necessary to adopt a replacement plan, the four councilmembers decidedly split over whether they should unilaterally appoint Rodarte’s successor or call for a special election in March 2017.
Mayor Mike Mendez and Councilmember Luigi Vernola advocated for appointing a qualified resident to the dais.
“We’ll have the community put the word out – and we’ll collect resumes from the community,” Vernola said. “We can come on a Saturday and review the applications then make a decision. That’s the fair way.”
However, Vice Mayor Cheri Kelley and Councilmember Leonard Shryock disagreed, pushing instead for the Council to wait until March 7, 2017 for a special election when anyone can run to fill the open seat.
“The learning curve for this job is huge. Looking at resumes doesn’t give us everything we need to know,” said Kelley, who maintained the voters should have a voice in selecting Rodarte’s successor.
“I’m just against giving incumbent status to a non-elected person,” said Shryock.
The Council voted first on Tuesday for a motion to appoint a replacement and then for a motion to wait for a special election in March. Both motions failed with a 2-2 split vote.
According to city code, the Council has 60 days from Rodarte’s resignation to decide on an option to replace him. If councilmembers choose to appoint a person to the Council, he or she would hold the office until March 7. At that time, the appointee could run to retain the seat until the remainder of Rodarte’s term, which ends March 2019.
If the Council votes to wait until March 2017 for a special election, the seat will stay vacant until then when residents can run to fill the seat until March 2019.
Councilmembers agreed to take up the issue again at the next City Council meeting on Aug. 2.