History Shows Elk Grove City Council Likely to Fill Coming District 4 Vacancy Through Appointment Process

November 15, 2016 |  

Now that Elk Grove City Councilman Steve Ly has won Elk Grove's mayoral race, his seat representing the city's District 4 will be vacated creating an opportunity for a new member of the City Council. The question many people are undoubtedly asking is how will it be filled.

The Elk Grove City Council can fill the vacancy one of two ways - by calling for a special election or by appointment.

As it relates to special elections, the City Council had opportunities in 2012 and 2014 to fill vacated seats by special election, but demurred. In both cases, the men on the council cited costs as the reason for not calling a special election.

Given this loathsomeness to calling a special election, and there is no reason to believe this will change, the other option left to fill the vacancy is by appointment. As the most likely option, the 2012 and 2014 appointments provide some guidance as to how the process proceeds this year.

In 2012 Gary Davis vacated his District 4 seat after having won that year's Mayoral race. After deciding to appoint, the process became a showdown between Davis and then-Councilman Jim Cooper versus Councilmen Pat Hume and Steve Detrick.

After numerous 2-2 votes between the two camps, the process had reached an impasse. Cooper was willing to let the matter be decided in a special election, while Hume, sensing Davis' unease of possibly being held responsible for the costs of a special election, outmaneuvered him.

In the end, Davis blinked first, and by a 3-1 vote, with Cooper voting no, approved the appointment of Hume's choice, former Elk Grove Unified School District Bob Trigg. As part of the selection, Trigg promised to be a seat-holder and would not seek reelection in 2014.

In 2014 when Cooper was elected to the California Assembly, the District 1 seat was vacated. Although the process for appointing current Councilman Darren Suen was less acrimonious, there were some interesting wrinkles.

That same year Mayor-elect Steve Ly won the District 4 seat on City Council, and Davis wanted him to be part of the process. Other members, most notably Cooper, felt as though the appointment process should include Trigg, who at that point had served slightly less than two years.

In the end, Cooper, along with Detrick and Hume prevailed and a special meeting in early December 2014 was held where Suen won the unanimous appointment with Trigg participating in the proceedings. Suen took his oath along with Ly, who had been excluded from the process, in mid-December, 2014.

This year, Davis and the City Council have a couple of ways to handle the expected appointment to the District 4 seat. They could wait for Davis to leave office and leave the decision to Detrick, Hume, Ly and Suen.

Additionally, they could schedule a special meeting sometime before Davis leaves office and speed the process so the new Council Member could be sworn-in along with Ly, Suen, and Detrick in mid-December. While Davis could face criticism for participating in the process as he leaves elected office, he could justify his participation by the precedent set in 2014.

Regardless of how the appointment proceeds, there will be only one unanswered question for Elk Grove residents. When the Elk Grove City Clerk opens up the application process for qualified individuals, will the City Councilmen already have decided on an appointee?

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