Approaching deadline, Aurora City Council delays Ward II vacancy vote at 3 a.m. after third, marathon session

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Aurora City Council voted nearly 100 times to fill the Ward II vacancy during a meeting that began July 26 before deciding to continue the meeting once again.The lawmakers will convene virtually July 29 at 6:30 p.m. SCREENSHOT

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.

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FeelingsAreNotFacts
FeelingsAreNotFacts
1 month ago

Let the voters decide! The leftists’ persistent objection that the wording of this motion was misleading given that the voters will get to decide anyway in November is so obviously disingenuous.

Nobody said or implied usurping the scheduled municipal election. It meant (in the absence of defection and the ensuing deadlock) let the voters decide (their ward representative from those still running in November.) Of course, they all know that, unless they think their voters are stupid. Which, apparently, the leftists do.

carol miller
carol miller
1 month ago

this is the craziest city council i have seen in my 50+ years living in Aurora and I’ve seen several. any of them who will run for re-election, either this year or in the future should be rejected by the voters. the mayor doesnt like it if there is no motion on the floor but does nothing to solve any problems. AND the minutes of an April and May meeting were approved last night…. in July. Are they servig the citizens who voted for them? I think not.

Joe Felice
Joe Felice
1 month ago

OK, we all see what the conservative faction is doing, hoping to get its own candidate in office in order to take what it sees as control. This is wrong, wrong, wrong, and they know it. So let’s just do this: Recall the entire Council. That way, no one can complain about politics. Then hold a new election to replace the existing members, and the entire council would then be composed of liberals, and we’ll be rid of the conservatives and their obstruction once and for all.

Seriously, at all levels of government, all the conservatives do is obstruct these days. Do they seriously not see anything wrong with what they are doing, while remaining betrothed to a demented, law-breaking demagogue?

FeelingsAreNotFacts
FeelingsAreNotFacts
1 month ago
Reply to  Joe Felice

Your accusations of control should be aimed at the socialists on the council. Johnston herself often found herself at odds with the increasingly socialist identity of the local democrat party and was attacked by the vile party chair for it. I believe she even unaffiliated herself. This is an attempted power grab by the remaining leftists Marcano, Coombs, Murillo, Lawson, and Hiltz hoping for a 6-4 council majority without the mayor. Sundberg would be an equalizer at 5-5.

FeelingsAreNotFacts
FeelingsAreNotFacts
1 month ago
Reply to  Joe Felice

Correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe it was Texas DEMOCRATS who fled congress on private planes to avoid a vote. If you are going to call obstructionism, please don’t ignorantly attribute it to the right.

FeelingsAreNotFacts
FeelingsAreNotFacts
1 month ago

Wondering how long it will take for the Sentinel to “approve” my comment, if they do at all. Tick tock, censors.

Joe Felice
Joe Felice
1 month ago

It was probably inappropriate.

Susan
Susan
1 month ago

Once again the mayor displayed his inability to lead and maintain the quality of excellence expected by the citizens of Aurora. Each council meeting deteriorates more than the previous one. Last night was a shameless display of ego versus community. Hearing the distain and hatred in the voices and tones of several council members towards their colleagues is simply unacceptable and it’s extremely disappointing that the mayor does not curtail the negativity. In fact, he is one of the guilty parties. I thank those council members who spoke eloquently without personal attacks and who clearly understand they represent we the people.
 Yes I’m embarrassed to tell people I live in Aurora.