The Spokane Valley City Council decided at its Tuesday meeting to begin a search for a temporary replacement for Councilman Bill Bates, who’s been on excused absence since late last year.
It was City Manager Mike Jackson who brought up the need to find a one-year, temporary replacement for Bates, who’s undergoing treatment for cancer.
“Our governance manual does not cover the procedure for filling a council position temporarily – only permanently,” Jackson said, before suggesting two different ways in which a temporary council member could be selected.
Jackson said either all council members could review all applications for the open position and follow that by making and seconding motions to select candidates.
“That could be done several times,” Jackson said, “so there would be more than one candidate.”
Alternately, Jackson explained, Mayor Dean Grafos could interview the candidates and make recommendations to the City Council, which would approve the final candidate.
Either way, a candidate would require four council votes to be selected, and the interview process would be conducted in public.
“The council could go into executive session to narrow down the number of candidates,” Jackson said.
Jackson handed a preliminary council member application package to each council member, and that started a discussion about which qualifications would be important in a temporary member. Some qualifications – like residency – are not up for discussion, as they are established by state law.
Councilman Chuck Hafner said he’d prefer someone who’s “not a stranger to what we do” so that person could hit the ground running.
Councilman Ed Pace supported keeping the interview and selection process as public as possible, but cautioned against being too specific on qualifications.
“There is no professional government,” Pace said.
Councilman Rod Higgins said he would prefer to interview candidates without the entire group being present, so those who go last don’t have the benefit of having heard all the other candidates’ answers.
“Perhaps we can keep them in another room,” Higgins said.
Jackson cautioned that may be difficult because the interviews would be public meetings.
Grafos said he’d like to get started on advertising the position.
“This is an important position that we need to fill,” Grafos said.
The City Council is not meeting again until June 2. By that meeting staff will have determined the selection procedure.
This was the meeting where Councilman Arne Woodard participated via phone. That’s an option that’s also been available to Bates, who has not taken advantage of it. It quickly became obvious why remote participation may not be the best option, as officials struggled to establish a reliable phone connection with Woodard, who couldn’t hear the City Council and sounded much like astronauts in early transmissions from space. Pace suggested putting a cellphone on the dais by Woodard’s microphone and have Woodard call in – but that idea was not pursued.
An ordinance requires four votes to pass, and when the council was facing the final vote on an ordinance to lower the tax on card games from 10 to 6 percent, it decided to postpone that vote until Woodard could be present at the next meeting.
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