The Reporter (Lansdale, PA)
Vacancy rules for open council seat considered
March 14 could bring vote to fill opening
NORTH WALES >> Council will have a decision to make in just weeks, and will be going back to the old rules to do so.
“We can agree to this process right now: we have all agreed that we're going to do the PSABS way of doing this, with a discussion,” said council President Sal Amato.
Back in 2017 council held multiple months of talks on changing their appointment process away from the rules set forth by the Pennsylvania State Association of Boroughs, which are based on Robert's Rules of Order and had been used during a council vacancy in early 2016.
The issue has come up again in recent weeks with the resignation of nowformer councilman Eion O'Neill in February, which leaves a vacant seat from the borough's Ward 1 that could be on the May primary and November election ballots.
Applications for that vacancy are due on March 10, and Amato and borough Manager Christine Hart said that they intend to have those applicants speak, then hold a vote to appoint, during council's March 14 meeting. The question is — which rules to follow? Under the PSABS rules, council would choose one of the applicants to vote on first, and if that candidate gets a majority of the eight council votes, they'd be chosen — without and before any vote on the other applicants.
“This is what we need to talk about: do we want a vote for each of those individual nominees? And then take whoever receives the most votes as being the winner, so to speak, of that nomination? ” Amato said.
“Or do we want to do it by the current, accepted method? Which is, the one vote, and whoever gets five or more (votes) wins, right off the bat?” he said.
In 2017 Amato was among the council members who raised concerns that following the PSABS process would lead to a race between council members to put their nomination in first, since the first vote could be decisive, compared to the borough rules developed in 2017 that called for votes on all candidates and the one with the highest number of votes would be chosen.
Under the PSABS rules, Amato explained: “I say to council: ‘You're going to have one shot to vote here, period.' And give them some time to think about it. And say ‘OK, you need to decide who you want, of those nominees, because you're only going to get one vote and one shot,'” he said.
“If we do it that way, that does avoid any kind of issue with voting, and making people feel as though they got negative votes. It's clean, it's simple, to the point, and everybody is aware of what the process is,” Amato said. In the event of a tie, the borough's mayor would cast a tiebreaking vote, and if the mayor is absent or abstains from a vote it would then be left to the borough's vacancy board chair, currently held by former councilwoman Jocelyn Tenney, to make the selection.
“If it does come down to a tie, the mayor of course will break that tie, and then we live with the circumstances of that broken tie,” said councilwoman Wendy McClure — who applied for the 2016 vacancy, fell short on a tie vote broken by the then-mayor, then was elected in 2017 to a seat she had previously held from 2004-09 and 2011-12.
Councilman Mark Tarlecki added that he felt the PSABS process was fair to all candidates, since each will be able to speak and could be nominated by council, even if not all receive an upand-down vote.
“That's the process we're going to use, and I will go through that process, clearly, prior to every vote, going forward,” Amato said.
North Wales borough council next meets at 7 p.m. on March 14 at the borough municipal building, 300 School Street. For more information visit www.NorthWalesBorough.org.