Vienna weighs open seat options

VIENNA – The Vienna City Council Thursday discussed its options for filling the empty seat on council left after Paul Thornton’s resignation.

Although no official decision was made as to how it will proceed, the council spoke at length about its options and how it plans to proceed during the regular council meeting on Thursday.

Thornton left the city council to become Vienna’s new community development director on July 1, and his seat remains empty at the council chambers.

According to the secretary of state, because Vienna does not have a charter, it has the option of appointing a council member through interviews to serve the remainder of Thornton’s term or waiting until the next election.

The city initially listed the idea of adopting a measure to fill Thornton’s seat as a resolution on its Thursday agenda, but during the meeting, City Attorney Russell Skogstad Jr. advised against proceeding with a resolution, encouraging the adoption of an ordinance instead.

Any ordinance introduced should include an “or” clause, giving the city options on how to fill empty council seats, including provisions based on variables such as how long it is until the next election, Skogstad said.

Nine people have announced their desire to fill the position, said Mayor Randy Rapp during Thursday’s meeting. The names of the nine people have not been publicly released.

With the election coming up in November, Rapp prefers waiting to let the people decide who will represent them.

Councilman Steve Stephens was concerned that any vacancy taken to the election will not be able to be filled until January.

A provision can be included in the ordinance which will permit the newly elected council member to take his or her seat immediately, Skogstad said.

The council also spoke about the possibility of appointing a temporary council member, who would serve until the November election, where he or she would run for the position along with others.

The city has the option of including the council position on the ballot for the November elections if it provides the names of the candidates to the council clerk by Aug. 12, Skogstad said.

Passing the ordinance in the next month places the council on a tight deadline, but it can be done, Skogstad said.

Skogstad outlined the procedure to the council, including the drafting of an ordinance for two readings, followed by proper class one legal notices in local media announcing the position is open.

Rapp asked Skogstad to draft an ordinance for the city which would provide the options discussed during the meeting and allow the seat to be filled promptly, and to have it ready for first reading at a special council meeting at 7 p.m. on July 17.