Council in deadlock over appointing new member

By Laura Daniali | Feb 13, 2014

After 27 rounds of voting, Edmonds City Council’s vacant seat remains unfilled.

The council decided on Tuesday to halt proceedings until Feb. 18 to give councilmembers time to think and review applicants’ interview tapes.

The six-member council narrowed the candidates down to Stephen C. Schroeder and Steve Bernheim, however, multiple rounds of voting continuously led to deadlock, resulting in an even split, 3-3, between the two.

With ballot No. 28 in front of councilmembers, Mayor Dave Earling called attention to a pattern in the voting and asked the council to consider either continuing discussions in executive session or extending the proceedings to another day.

In order for an appointment to occur, a candidate must receive a majority vote.

With the current process, there is no limit to the number of nomination and voting rounds, no procedure for handling deadlocks or for eliminating candidates once voting begins.

Of the six current councilmembers, four were originally appointed to vacancies themselves, with each undergoing a slightly different process. All four have since been elected to full terms.

An attempt was made to mimic the most recent process used but was met with some resistance from councilmembers.

From the onset, the current process has been modified and changed.

The council interviewed all 14 candidates once, and then decided to interview some for a second round because they were less well known than the other applicants.

But several councilmembers expressed concern about fairness in that process.

 

Council President Diane Buckshnis addressed those concerns by offering all of the candidates the option of a second interview or the opportunity to answer questions via email.

Procedural questions have been deferred to the city attorney, who has advised the council that the procedure is at their discretion.

“It’s whatever you want it to be,” City Attorney Jeff Taraday said. “I would agree that just going forward, it probably would be a good idea to have a standardized process.”

While the council agreed to postpone voting Tuesday, there was some disagreement surrounding who will be on the ballot come next week.

Depending on what the council decides, all 14 applicants may still be under consideration.

Going forward, Councilmember Adrienne Fraley-Monillas said she wanted to concentrate on the two deadlocked candidates only.

“I don’t want to go back to the beginning and have to start at scratch with new nominations and candidates having to wait for another week to know what’s going on with their lives,” Fraley-Monillas said. “I think that’s unfair to them.”

Councilmember Strom Peterson supported going into executive session for more talks but did not want to limit the number of candidates considered at this time.

“I’m fine with the executive session,” Peterson said. “I am not, however, fine with limiting it to two candidates.

“I think we were very adamant about process, to keep this open and allow citizens to weigh in.

“I certainly would not guarantee that I would come back with the same nomination.”

Historically, the council has interviewed all applicants.  With 14 applicants for the current vacancy, the council has realized that they must reconsider how they go about appointing a new member.

Following the full council meeting, Councilmember Fraley-Monillas offered suggestions for a smoother process during the Public Safety and Personnel Committee meeting.

Among them were eliminating applicants who were not qualified before the interview process and using a scoring process during interviews.

“There’s got to be a way through this,” Fraley-Monillas said. “There’s got to be a better way.”

Buckshnis said that she has received many compliments on the process.

“This hybrid approach may not have been a perfect process, and the appointment process has never been a perfect process,” Buckshnis said.

She said that although imperfect, the process has allowed each of the applicants an opportunity to present their reasons for wanting to join the council and their ideas and goals if appointed.

“There’s nothing wrong with the process,” applicant Schroeder agreed. “They could do it any number of ways.

“Right now, they’re deadlocked, and they’ll compromise at some point and somebody will get chosen.”

The council has until March 31 to make an appointment. If they are unable to do so, the decision will be turned over to Snohomish County Council.

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