Vice Mayor Stainbrook breaks 3-3 tie vote to table vote on Plante's appointment until Oct. 28.
Vice Mayor Dale Stainbrook Monday night broke a tie city council vote on a motion to delay the appointment of Chris Plante to fill the vacant Ward 6 seat, and the Ward 5 council member serving as mayor in the wake of Guy Martin’s abrupt resignation last month voted in favor of delaying Plante’s appointment.
Monday’s agenda included a resolution to appoint Plante, who was chosen by a selection committee comprised of council members and a couple Ward 6 residents after interview sessions Sept. 30 with three Ward 6 residents who had expressed interest in being appointed to fill the seat vacated by Cindy Gjerswold earlier this fall, who had to resign when her family moved outside of city limits. That evening, Plante was interviewed along with Dylane Klatt and Patty Dillabough. After the interviews and a 90-minute committee debate that had the trio of Ward 6 residents rising and falling in the committee members’ rankings, Plante was the eventual pick.
Monday, Ward 3 Council Member Clayton Briggs made the motion to table the resolution appointing Plante “so more research can be conducted on the matter.” Since he’s going to be out of town when the council holds its first November meeting on Nov. 11, Briggs initially motioned to have the Ward 6 vacancy resolved by the council’s Nov. 25 meeting. At Large Council Member Tom Vedbraaten said he wasn’t comfortable waiting that long, so Briggs eventually modified his motion to table the matter until the council’s Oct. 28 meeting.
So what will happen between now and then? That’s what At Large Council Member Bobby Baird wanted to know. “When are we doing to discuss this?” he wondered. “What’s the procedure?”
After council members briefly considered a subsequent Ways & Means Committee discussion, Vedbraaten suggested that if council members have questions or concerns about Plante’s appointment, “They have two weeks to figure them out and get answers.”
“So it’s up to each council member to find answers to their questions?” Stainbrook said, looking for clarification.
Council members seemed good with that plan for the next two weeks, and Plante, who was in attendance, said he’d make his contact information available to any council members who wanted to reach out to him in the meantime.
When it was time to vote on Briggs’ motion, he voted in favor, along with Vedbraaten and Ward 4 Council Member Don Cavalier. Baird voted against, along with Ward 1 Council Member Jake Fee and Ward 2 Council Member Steve Erickson. In voting in favor in order to break the deadlock, Stainbrook said the plan, if Plante’s appointment is approved on Oct. 28, would be swear Plante in at the council’s Nov. 11 meeting.
Although it’s entirely possible that any council member concerns or questions will be cleared up and answered by Oct. 28, the path to appointing Plante seems a bit murky at this point. It takes five yes votes to approve any resolution, even in the event that the mayor/presiding vice mayor has to break a 4-4 tie with the deciding fifth vote. With the council currently short one member and Stainbrook sitting in the mayor’s chair, meaning he doesn’t vote unless there’s a council tie, that leaves only six council members to vote. If they happen to tie again on Oct. 28 on a vote to appoint Plante, even if Stainbrook votes in favor to break the tie, the four yes votes won’t be enough to carry the resolution forward. So what it comes down to is that if Plante is to be appointed, two council members who voted to put the brakes on his appointment Monday night are going to have to vote in favor of his appointment on Oct. 28.
It’s worth noting that at the Ward 6 interview committee meeting Sept. 30, Stainbrook mentioned that he hoped there wouldn’t be any “drama” surrounding the vote to appoint Plante at the Oct. 14 council meeting.
The council on Monday also took the first steps toward filling the vacant mayor’s seat. They officially accepted Martin’s resignation and declared a vacancy. With a shared goal of filling the Ward 6 seat first, council members agreed with Stainbrook that the goal will be to have a new mayor in place by January 2020.
But, with Erickson leading a discussion that seemed to indicate the current process of appointing new council members and mayors is leaving a lot to be desired, the council is going to take a look in the coming weeks at how they go about filling vacancies. Council members agreed with Erickson’s contention that asking the same questions of every resident interested in being appointed to a council or mayoral seat doesn’t result in enough pertinent useful information for those who will vote on appointees. Erickson said that council members and others on interview committees should have the option of asking more specific questions and further engaging candidates and not simply go around a table with committee members taking turns asking everyone the same questions.
“These are important positions; this should be as thorough and detailed as possible,” Erickson noted. “…It seems right to ask everyone the same questions, but maybe there could be some more specific questions.”
Council members will take the next couple of weeks to refine interview questions, either by eliminating some or coming up with new ones.
Vedbraaten piggybacked on Erickson’s concerns about the process, saying that members of interview committees should simply vote for their top choice to fill various seats, instead of ranking them. “There are multiple votes and people changing their votes and eliminating people and then bringing them back,” Vedbraaten saids. “I know it’s not an election, but I heard from a lot of people who question the way we did that. Vote for your top (choice) and see what happens.”
Fee said he concurred with Vedbraaten’s suggested changes in the process. “It’s better than rating people one, two, three,” he added.