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Sat, Aug. 17

Prescott Council repeals procedure for filling vacancies

PRESCOTT - A new process for filling vacancies on the Prescott City Council apparently is in the works.

At their voting session on Tuesday, Prescott City Council members asked city staff members to come up with as many as three different options for how to fill the seat being vacated on March 27 by Councilman John Hanna.

The directive came as a part of the council's decision to repeal a replacement policy that had been in effect since 2000.

The earlier policy required the city to solicit applicants for a vacant council seat through an advertisement in the media. After reviewing the applicants, the council would then interview the top candidates in a public meeting.

When the council used the 2000 policy in its replacement of Councilwoman Tammy Linn this past summer, the advertisement generated 20 applicants.

After a council committee narrowed the field, the council interviewed the four finalists in public before choosing longtime Planning and Zoning Commissioner Len Scamardo to temporarily fill the seat.

In a memo on the matter this week, the city maintained that the process had been "cumbersome, inflexible and unresponsive to the possible situations that can rise in the event of such vacancies."

City Clerk Elizabeth Burke agreed on Tuesday. "It wasn't very flexible," she said of the previous policy.

The council voted unanimously to repeal the previous policy. At the same time, members agreed to Councilman Charlie Arnold's suggestion that city staff members come up with as many as three choices for a new process to deal with Hanna's vacancy.

"I think it's important that we define a process," Arnold said after the meeting. He added that he believes an application process would be appropriate.

Along with defining the procedure for applicants, Arnold said the process also should include "how the applicants are reviewed."

Mayor Marlin Kuykendall said after the meeting that he does not expect the options to go back to the council by next week. "I think it will be at least two weeks," he said.

Although Kuykendall had guessed last week that the first step in the replacement process would be consideration by the city's three-member council selection committee, he said this week that the entire council likely would be involved in future consideration of the matter.

Also affecting council replacements is the city charter, which previously required the city to conduct a special election to permanently replace a council member if more than half of his or her term still remained.

That applied in Linn's case, and the city conducted a special election in conjunction with its November 2011 general election. Voters chose Alan Carlow to serve the remainder of Linn's term.

Meanwhile, the city also put a measure on the November ballot asking voters to approve a change in the city charter that would allow the council to choose whether to appoint a permanent replacement for a vacancy or conduct a special election.

Although city voters approved the charter change, Burke noted that the measure is still awaiting the signature of Gov. Jan Brewer before it will become official.

Even so, Burke said, the issue does not apply for the pending replacement, because Hanna has already served more than half of his four-year term. Under the requirements of the previous city charter, that means the council can appoint a permanent replacement without conducting a special election.

Hanna, who won his seat on the council in 2009, announced at the end of last week's meeting that he would be resigning on March 27 to run for the District 1 post on the Yavapai County Board of Supervisors.

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