Avalon City Council discusses succession plan to fill seat of deceased member, Pam Albers

Council members put out call for possible candidate submissions, decide to appoint a replacement at the next meeting later in June.

AVALON—The Avalon City Council, after the death of council member Pam Albers in May, is being faced with the tough decision of filling her seat. Council members, during the June 4 meeting, agreed to appoint Albers’s replacement at the next meeting.

Council members were given two options to fill Albers’s chair: appointing a new member or holding a special election. Ultimately, the council decided against the special election due to expense and timeliness. According to city staff, a special election could cost between $30,000 and $50,000 of taxpayers’ money. A special election would also be required to take place in October or November – council members were not keen on the idea of having a vacant chair for several months.

City staff stated that council members would have 60 days to fill the seat if by appointment; the deadline is July 18. If a council member is appointed, they would not be appointed for Albers’ full term, which would have ended in 2022. Instead, the appointed council member will serve until the next election on March 3, 2020.

Council members and the public were torn about the decision, many citing Albers’s fierce dedication to research and her position.

Council member Cinde MacGugan-Cassidy mentioned the possibility of appointing the candidate who received the most votes after Albers. Steve Hoefs, who held positions as Avalon city manager and fire chief, was Albers’s runner-up and received just 17 votes less in the final count. There was support for Hoefs in MacGugan-Cassidy, Council member Oley Olsen and several members of the public. However, council members agreed to put out a call for submissions from members of the public who would be interested in filling Albers’s seat.

Complicating matters, council members made the decision that the submission process should be similar to how the current council was selected. Mayor Ann Marshall stated sitting council members never had to submit their resumes or other similar documentation. Marshall felt council members should not dictate the applications or how candidates wish to submit their information. Instead, council members said they would give potential appointees the option to submit their material until June 12 at 3 p.m. Afterwards council members will review submissions and move to make an appointment at the following meeting.

The June 12 deadline was selected to give city staff the time to add submissions to the next agenda; the next city council meeting will likely take place on June 18.

Council members were concerned with involving the public in their decision. City Attorney Scott Campbell stated there would need to be a public meeting when the council appoints a new member, saying it could not take place behind closed doors or it would violate The Brown Act.

MacGugan-Cassidy stated, “The citizens of Avalon need to be involved in this decision. We’re [council members] all elected. We went through a process, the citizens chose us – some did not, but that is the democratic process. I just feel it is citizens of this community that need to be involved in this decision-making process.”

Campbell stated he had “done this six times” – the number of times he had witnessed filling a vacant spot for Avalon City Council. Campbell continued four of the times council members were appointed and two of the times council members could not determine an appointee, which lead to Los Angeles Board of Supervisors selecting the council member. The City Council was not given the second option under current circumstances.

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