New Carlisle city council members couldn’t break a tie to select a new council member Thursday night, but some members said the vote was a symptom of bigger problems in the city.
Council members were deadlocked at three votes apiece for Amy Hopkins and Becky McKenzie. They were seeking a spot on the council left open when former member Aaron Leighty resigned and moved out of the city. A third candidate, Kathy Wright, did not receive any votes.
There was controversy with each candidate who received votes. McKenzie previously led an effort to recall New Carlisle Mayor Ethan Reynolds, although that attempt failed. And council member Mike Lowrey argued although Hopkins would make a good candidate, she should have been disqualified because she turned in a resume but did not submit an application for the job.
“Mrs. Hopkins, I feel, didn’t do what was asked of her and I didn’t feel it was fair to the other two candidates who did,” Lowrey said.
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Several council members said Thursday’s 40-minute meeting was contentious, and they expected a tie before it started. Council member Bill Cook said there’s a clear split within the city council that is making it tough to govern.
“We’re not tearing the town down but were not doing it any good,” Cook said. “We’re not doing the job the city deserves.”
Reynolds, Vice Mayor Bill Lindsey and council member Chris Shamy voted for Hopkins. Lowrey, Cook and council member Rob Cobb voted for McKenzie.
One or more council members could still potentially change their mind to break the tie, but the next step is likely that as mayor, Reynolds will have an opportunity to appoint a new council member. If Reynolds fails to appoint a new council member, the vacancy would be decided with a special election next year.
Reynolds said he would review the candidates again before deciding whether to appoint someone to the vacant seat.
“It’s up to me to make that decision and I’m going to think about it and review the applicants over the next several days,” Reynolds said.
Leaving the seat up to voters in a special election is the most fair scenario, Lowrey said. But that likely wouldn’t take place for several months and the council has to continue doing business in the meantime. Despite the issues facing council members, Lowrey said he thinks the council can still get past its own squabbles to tackle important issues like the budget.
“The city has a lot of big things they have to tackle in that time,” Lowrey said. “Hopefully the mayor will make the right decision.”
Reynolds also said he believes the council will be more effective with a seventh vote.
“I dont want to have six members,” Reynolds said. “The odds of a tie greatly increase with that.”
There were other controversies before Thursday’s vote took place. During the interview process, Reynolds asked all three candidates how they felt about elected officials kneeling during the Pledge of Allegiance. Reynolds, a conservative Republican, previosuly told the News-Sun news reports of council members across the country kneeling during the Pledge of Allegiance prompted him to ask the question. Last month, a Haddam, Conn. councilwoman took a knee during the Pledge of Allegiance further sparking a nationwide debate.
Former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick knelt during the national anthem as a way to protest injustice against minorities in America. Many people support the action as a right protected by free speech, while others feel it is disrespectful to the military.
No one has knelt during New Carlisle’s recitation of the pledge before council meetings.