Westminster City Council was not able to appoint someone to a vacant council seat after 99 rounds of voting, topping the council's previous 78-round record.
During a 2 1/2-hour special meeting on June 7, the six-member council cycled through eight finalists who were vying for a seventh seat on the dais. Since no finalist received a majority vote by council, voters will choose the seventh councilor in November's municipal election, leaving an evenly split council on its own for the next five months.
“While I do not look forward to governing for a period of five months without an additional member of council to help put their finger on the scale to help determine policy and budget decisions, I feel like this is turning into … I don't see a path,” said Mayor Anita Seitz during the meeting.
The coming months will prove challenging to a council that is politically and ideologically split on several issues. On one side is Seitz and Councilors Kathryn Skulley and Jon Voelz, who are all Democrats, who support the city's current structure for water rates. The rates are a sensitive issue in the community, resulting in the three being targets of a recall campaign that began last fall.
On the other side is Mayor Pro Tem David DeMott and Councilors Rich Seymour and Lindsey Smith, who are all Republicans, support lowering water rates and are considered allies of the Westminster Water Warriors, the recall group.
The Water Warriors sought to recall Seitz, Skulley, Voelz and former Mayor Herb Atchison for the councilors' stance on water rates. Westminster City Clerk Michelle Parker deemed in late April that recall petitions for Atchison and Voelz sufficient to trigger recall elections. Atchison resigned soon after and Voelz will face a recall election on July 20. When Atchison resigned, Seitz, then mayor pro tem, became mayor, leaving vacant her seat with a 2 1/2-year term remaining.
At a June 1 special meeting, council interviewed eight finalists to fill the seat, Obi Ezaedi, Patrick Rock, Don Fiddes, Wayne Anderson, Miguel Mendoza-Hall, Mike Tylka, Mark Clark and Larry Dean Valente. All eight finalists received votes from councilors at the June 7 special meeting, just not a majority amount.
Round 1 counted three votes for Ezeadi from Seitz, Skulley and Voelz and three votes for Valente from DeMott, Smith and Seymour. The voting at the June 7 meeting followed a pattern similar to a May 10 meeting, when councilors voted 78 times for mayor pro tem, ultimately settling on DeMott. Both sides budged very little on their selections.
Similarly, at the June 7 meeting, both factions of councilors had their preferred finalists. Seymour, Smith and DeMott primarily voted for Anderson or Valente, while Seitz, Skulley and Voelz often voted for Ezeadi, Fiddes and Tylka. Seitz, Skulley or Voelz also voted for Rock and Mendoza-Hall on a few occasions, while DeMott voted for Clark a couple times.
Which finalists received which votes meant something. Valente has publicly supported the Water Warriors and lowering water rates. Tylka, Rock and Fiddes expressed the opposite view in their interviews. Never did Seitz, Skulley and Voelz vote for Valente, likely because he's someone who has supported their recall.
The two sides voted in blocs for the first 30 rounds but started switching it up after that. Councilors began voting for finalists different from their counterparts, but never to join with the other side and create a majority vote.
After Round 40, the council already sensed it would have difficulty reaching a consensus. “I take this duty that we have been given with sadness in my heart. I believe we are at an impasse and I don't see, we keep coming back to the same spot,” Seymour said. Voelz made a similar comment after Round 55.
At that point, City Attorney Dave Frankel explained that the if council doesn't make a choice by June 9 — the end of a 30-day window from when the council seat became vacant — the choice will go to voters in the November election.
So, council kept trying to “shake loose a consensus,” as Seitz said. Then, after Round 80, Seitz said in a conciliatory manner, “I'm going to make one more plea for us to now, at this point, call this an impasse and let the voters decide … This is becoming a spectacle instead of a decision-making process.” DeMott and Smith disagreed, saying they wanted to go until the meeting was scheduled to end at 10:30 p.m.
So, they went to Round 99. Then, the clock struck 10:30 and Seitz wouldn't let it go to triple digits. She offered some concluding comments and adjourned the meeting.
The mayor said, “I am sorry that we could not get to a consensus tonight. I look forward to hearing what our voters say in November.”
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