Error nullifies Langley City Council pick

Langley will have a do-over with the appointment of a city council member after learning it mistakenly allowed outgoing Councilwoman Margot Jerome to vote on her replacement May 19.

Mayor Fred McCarthy notified The Record after a resident questioned the city’s appointment process. During the May 19 city council meeting, the council was split 2-2 between appointing Sharon Emerson and Robin Black — Jerome and Jim Sundberg voting for Black, and Thomas Gill and Rene Neff voting for Emerson. Councilman Bruce Allen was absent. McCarthy cast the tie-breaking vote in favor of Black. Days later, he was informed that the appointment violated state law which prohibits an outgoing council member from voting on their replacement.

“We admit that we made a mistake on that,” McCarthy said.

“It certainly wasn’t done intentionally,” he added.

One of the reasons for confusion was the ambiguity in Jerome’s resignation letter. No end date was specified, instead only that she would resign at the end of May or at the convenience of the council. Although it was submitted in early May, the open-ended termination led city leaders to believe she would continue to serve until a new council member was sworn into office.

“Our legal counsel advised us that we should have clearly established that she was done with her service and not a voting member,” McCarthy said.

Originally, they thought that meant she could vote because the new council member was to be sworn in at the June 2 council meeting. The Langley City Council will vote on the candidates June 2, but there will not be another round of interview questions.

Despite being the initial pick, Black said she considered withdrawing her name because Emerson technically had the council vote 2-1. Black kept her name in because she disagreed with Emerson’s vision that Langley should accept and embrace an aging demographic.

“I’m staying in because I feel very strongly that the city needs growth and should not be a retirement community,” Black said.

Another potential issue with the last appointment vote was the mayor casting the tie-breaking vote. McCarthy said he was advised by the city’s contracted lawyer that cases exist in other cities where the mayor’s role in appointing new city council members was “problematic.”

Should the city again come to a deadlock in finding a new city council member, McCarthy said he was unlikely to vote. That would mean that the appointment would go to the Island County commissioners — a possibility McCarthy planned to make clear to the council before voting.

“My expectation would be that we won’t have any trouble with a majority vote,” he said.

“I would be surprised if the council would want to relinquish the selection process to the county level,” he added.


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