Clock ticking on city council appointment

By Thomas Wilson

STAR STAFF
twilson@starhq.com

   The Elizabethton City Council has less than 10 days to fill the city council seat vacated by the death of Diane Morris by an affirmative vote of a majority of the remaining council members.
   Mayor Sam LaPorte said Monday that he did not expect to have an appointee named in the immediate future.
   "It could happen; at this point, I don't expect it to happen," said LaPorte. The entire selection process could rest solely with LaPorte if the council does not convene before March 12.
   According to state law, a city council has 30 days to appoint a citizen to serve out the term of a council member who is unable to fulfill his or her term. Morris died on Feb. 10 three months after winning her second council term. The 30-day time period elapses on March 12. The city council is scheduled to meet in regular session March 13.
   The city's charter reads that in the event that a tie vote by the council to fill a vacancy goes unbroken for 30 days, the mayor shall appoint a qualified person to fill the vacancy. State law does not specify who will make the appointment if the council does not convene to vote on a successor within the 30 day window.
   If the council does not appoint a new member within 30 days, city charter reads that the sitting mayor can exercise his authority as the council's chief executive to appoint a qualified candidate. LaPorte said if that occurs the council's input would still play a major role in the decision process.
   "I'm still going to seek the advice and guidance of the council," said LaPorte. "I'm in no hurry."
   The affirmative vote of at least one half of the members of the council shall be required to make any authorized appointment or remove such appointees, according to the city charter.
   Also, special meetings may be called by the city clerk on the written request of the mayor, the city manager, or any two council members. The meeting's notice must provide each council member with 24 hours written notice.
   Any special meeting at which all members of the council are present or have waived notice thereof in writing must be a legal meeting for all purposes. In addition, business transacted at any special meeting is limited to subjects recited in the notice of a special meeting.
   "I've not talked to a living soul," said Councilwoman Nancy Alsup on Monday of a possible meeting to decide the next council member. "I don't anticipate calling one, but I hope somebody will call and tell me something."
   At the Feb. 13 council meeting, Alsup moved for a special meeting of the council to appoint a new member during the week of Feb. 17. She also maintained her desire to hold the meeting despite LaPorte's comment that he would be out of town during the week.
   LaPorte said he had no short list of potential appointees that could fill the vacancy.
   "Right now, I'm just letting the time pass to see if anything happens in this time period," he said.
   The person appointed as the new council member will serve until the next county election scheduled for Aug. 5, 2004. At that time, candidates may vie for the seat as an open council seat. LaPorte said he hoped the seat would be filled by the council's April meeting.
   "I would hope we would by that time," he said. "I think it is more important to get the best fit than it is to be in a hurry."