New Carlisle will likely need to hold a special election to fill a vacant council seat after three council members didn’t attend an emergency meeting Thursday night.
Because the council didn’t have a quorum, New Carlisle Mayor Ethan Reynolds said was unable to appoint his choice to the open seat. The timing of the special election is unknown, he said, and city officials are exploring the possibility of having it this November.
“We are not really sure,” Reynolds said. “We are in a waiting pattern.”
The council has been in the process of trying to replace Aaron Leighty, who resigned in July after moving out of the city. Three residents applied for the job — Amy Hopkins, Kathy Wright and Becky McKenzie.
The six remaining council members attempted to select a new member last week but ended up deadlocked between Hopkins and McKenzie. Reynolds then had an opportunity to call a special meeting for Wednesday and planned to appoint his choice — Hopkins, he said.
But before he was able to do so, it was pointed out that the legal ad that was distributed to a newspaper wasn’t clear what the meeting was for.
Because it was unclear if the meeting was legal, Reynolds decided not to appoint Hopkins. He then attempted to hold an emergency meeting Thursday in an attempt to appoint Hopkins again. Information for the meeting was emailed to the Springfield News-Sun about four hours before the 6 p.m. meeting was set to take place.
New Carlisle Council members Ronald Cobb, Bill Cook and Mike Lowery couldn’t attend Thursday’s meeting.
Lowery said he didn’t attend the meeting because of work obligations and because he didn’t feel having an emergency meeting to select a new council member was the right thing to do.
“Filling that appointed position has been going on for 37 days,” Lowery said in a Facebook video addressing the situation. “We’ve had more than enough time to get this taken care of and unfortunately, it just hasn’t gotten done and I feel that is on the council. And therefore I don’t think it justifies an emergency meeting.”
Cook said he had prior engagements and wasn’t home when he was called about the meeting nor when a letter was dropped off at his house.
“This is a part-time position,” Cook said. “And consequently there are certain things in life and family matters that are important.”
He said he was out of town.
“We do not live to be at the beck and call of the mayor,” Cook said. “We respond to different drummers and family comes first.”
Cobb couldn’t be reached for comment, but Cook said he was told that Cobb also was out of town. The three council members who didn’t show up were also the three who had voted in favor of McKenzie. Lowery said that was a coincidence and that each man had their own reason for not being able to make it.
“It was a last minute meeting and I had to be at work at 3 a.m. and I was in bed at 7 p.m,” Lowery said.
Lowery said he wasn’t sure if the meeting was legal and elected not to attend.
Reynolds said he believes the meeting was legally called, but now that the deadline to appoint has passed, the city will have no choice but to hold a special election. He said the cost of the special election could be upwards of $12,000, money that the city could have saved had the council come to a decision.
“I think everyone said that Amy was qualified and she was a good person and great for the job,” Reynolds said. “I think they stated that several times. I think if they thought that, then they should have voted for her. Sometimes politics gets in the way of governing.”
Lowery and Cobb said because of the high emotions surrounding the council vacancy, leaving it to the people is the best choice.
“I think that’s the way it should go with all the controversy, let the citizens decide,” Cook said. “But had the timing been right, we could have possibly met the deadline.”
Clark County Board of Elections Director Jason Baker said the office is working with its legal counsel to figure out when the special election can be and how much it will cost the city.