No decision: Council ends up where it left off regarding vacant seat; Fraley-Monillas suggests an election may be the answer
After going through an additional 19 ballots Tuesday night, the Edmonds City Council ended up in the same place it was a week earlier to fill a vacant council seat — deadlocked with three votes for former Councilmember Steve Bernheim and three votes for former federal attorney Stephen Schroeder.
That’s despite the fact that several new candidate names were thrown into the mix, including Sound Transit marketing executive Tim Healey, Alford Group President and CEO Thomas Mesaros, D.A. Davidson financial consultant Timothy Schell, Edmonds Planning Board member Neil Tibbott and former City Councilmember Ron Wambolt. The non-Bernheim voting block of Council President Diane Buckshnis and Councilmembers Strom Peterson and Kristiana Johnson seemed to be offering alternatives to break the logjam, but the Bernheim voting block of Joan Bloom, Adrienne Fraley-Monillas and Lora Petso steadfastly stood by their man, and eventually the other council threesome returned to Schroeder, who had been their favored choice last week.
The council even retired to executive session — as they did last week — to hash out their differences but to no avail, and when another deadlock was declared by City Clerk Scott Passey, Buckshnis moved that the process be continued until the next council meeting, Tuesday, Feb. 25.
Whether another week’s time will make any difference is hard to say, but Fraley-Monillas did offer another possibility to her fellow councilmembers at the end of the meeting. During councilmember comments, she said she has asked City Attorney Jeff Taraday to research the logistics of running a special election for the purpose of letting the voters decide who should fill the vacant seat. If that possibility doesn’t pan out, the council has until March 31 to make a decision. Otherwise, by law the choice will be elevated to the Snohomish County Council.
In other action, the council also:
-Heard from attorney Robert Feldman of the law firm Feldman and Lee, which has been contracting with the City of Edmonds to provide public defender services since 1986. Feldman shared with councilmembers the challenges that his firm will be facing in light of a recent federal court decision that sets the bar higher for representation of indigent defendants — and will result a much heavier workload for public defenders, which will in turn will mean higher costs for the city. For example, Feldman said, public defenders will have to schedule private meetings with defendants, even if those defendants have already decided to plead guilty, and law firms may even been required to have private investigators on staff, regardless of whether they can keep them busy.
-Voted unanimously to streamline the process for hiring two open director level positions — for Development Services and Finance. Under a process approved earlier this year, the council agreed to waive the requirement that three candidates be interviewed for the Development Services Director position, and to waive additional rounds of interviews for the person to replace Roger Neumaier, who recently resigned as Finance Director. As a result of that vote, Mayor Dave Earling will be able to bring forward the second candidate from the city’s previous Finance Director recruitment cycle for confirmation, and will also be able to introduce the top two candidates — rather than the three normally required — for the development services post. (In the latter case, Earling had planned to have three candidates, but the third person dropped out of the running at the last minute.)