AURORA | The U.S. Senate has endless filibusters and the Aurora City Council has half-hour recesses.
An attempt to appoint a candidate to the Ward II vacancy spanned a third city council meeting Monday, stretching late into the night and into the next day before the lawmakers decided after 3 a.m. to pause the meeting until July 29 at 6:30 p.m.
“…I think it’s a waste of time,” Council member Alison Coombs said, moving to override the second recess Mayor Mike Coffman called in the 11 o’clock hour.
Coombs’s motion was defeated in a tied vote, much like most others throughout the night.
Council members voted nearly 100 times, essentially along party lines, between candidates Republican Steve Sundberg, who owns a local tavern, and Democrat Ryan Ross, who facilitated the police reform task force, before arriving at the decision.
Council members Francoise Bergan, Marsha Berzins, Dave Gruber, Curtis Gardner and Mayor Mike Coffman once again voted for Sundberg, while council members Alison Coombs, Allison Hiltz, Crystal Murillo, Angela Lawson and Juan Marcano once again backed Ross.
The lawmakers had twice put off the vote for the Ward II candidate since former member Nicole Johnston resigned her seat last month, but the council now faces a July 29 appointment deadline, outlined in the city charter.
Council members agreed to continue the meeting in a few days to allow the city attorney’s office to seek a third-party legal opinion on whether not appointing a vacancy due to a 5-5 tie actually violates the charter. At around 2:30 a.m., city attorney Dan Brotzman, who holds that it does, said his staff had already begun sending out messages to arrange the opinion.
“Obviously, they’re not awake right now,” he said.
Brotzman said his office would likely have an idea of when to expect the opinion by Tuesday mid-afternoon.
Throughout the night, several members said they had doubts about the city attorney’s interpretation of the charter on the matter of violation, which could possibly lead to legal challenges. With a 5-5 stalemate, Bergan said there was no way a “majority” of council — which the city charters says must appoint — could appoint a new member, and therefore believed it would not count as a violation.
The section of code reads: If a vacancy occurs in the council, the remaining council members shall, no later than 45 days after such vacancy occurs, appoint by majority vote a person possessed of all statutory qualifications to fill such vacancy for the unexpired term of the previously vacated office.
Over the last several city council meetings Brotzman has told the city council that the charter’s wording dictates the body make a decision.
“‘Shall’ connotes a requirement,” the city attorney’s office wrote in its own recent memo, citing case law. If drafters of the charter had opted to use “may” that would have been interpreted as a direction rather than an obligation.
Council members Coombs and Marcano voted along with Bergan, Berzins, Coffman, Gruber and Gardner to get the opinion.