Council fails to fill vacancy

Published: Friday, Jan. 11, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 1B
Last Modified: Monday, Jan. 14, 2013 - 8:54 am

The city of Elk Grove moved closer to a costly special election after the City Council on Wednesday night failed to break a series of deadlocks on who should fill the council's District 4 vacancy.

The council has one more opportunity, at its meeting Jan. 23, to overcome the multiple tie votes and name one of five remaining candidates to replace former Councilman Gary Davis, who was elected mayor.

A sixth candidate, Jeffrey Sherwood Owen, a 12-year resident of the city, announced late in the meeting he was withdrawing his application.

"I was hoping to get one round of "yes-yes/no-no," Owen quipped.

Councilman Pat Hume refused to accept the withdrawal, nominating Owen, who then became the fourth candidate to fall short of a majority with a 2-2 vote.

Owen subsequently did withdraw. On Thursday he said he considered a special election – if the council can't pick a candidate to appoint – a monetary loss for the city and "a shame, when there are so many other things we could do with that money."

Sacramento County elections spokesman Brad Buyse said Thursday that special election costs would be upward of $550,000, and the council might be asked to prepay costs.

If the council on Jan. 23 calls for a special election, the earliest it could be held is June 4, Buyse said.

Of the six candidates questioned by the council Wednesday night, two emerged as favorites.

Nine members of the public urged the council to name Nancy De Anda Chaires to the position. Councilman Jim Cooper appointed Chaires to the Elk Grove Planning Commission five years ago and he nominated her on Wednesday night.

She is special programs consultant on migrant education for the state Department of Education, and she was the first to be nominated Wednesday night. She drew staunch support from Davis and Cooper.

But she drew "no" votes from Hume and fellow Councilman Steve Detrick.

Hume, in voting no, said "there seemed to be some sort of pre-ordained process that got tainted along the way."

Hume's remarks alluded to comments Assemblyman Roger Dickinson made last year about Chaires. According to elkgrovenews.net, Dickinson "implied" at a campaign event that Chaires was being groomed to fill Davis' council seat if he won election as mayor.

"It shouldn't affect her, just because it played out among other people," Cooper told Hume. "She's done nothing. She didn't have anything to do with it. The community likes her. I don't think it's tainted."

On Thursday, Hume said, "From where I sit it reeked of backroom deals and politics."

He added, however, "it had nothing to do with her. I've got respect for her."

Chaires said Thursday if residents thought "there was something inappropriate going on, I would be the first to call for a special election."

Both Hume and Detrick supported Oscar Portillo O'con, who operates a marketing and public relations business and is president of the Elk Grove Rotary.

That nomination also produced a 2-2 split, with Davis and Cooper opposed.

Detrick pushed for O'con, remarking that the "No. 1 thing we (council members) need right now is in the business community" and noted that O'con had the support of the Elk Grove Chamber of Commerce.

"I was going after Oscar's support five years ago," Detrick recalled of his own election campaign.

He said the two traveled together recently to Concepción de Ataco, Elk Grove's sister city in El Salvador.

The only other candidate to be nominated was David Glenn Conner, the chief executive officer for RECON Networking Inc. of Elk Grove – also producing a deadlock.

At one point, Mayor Davis looked to the candidates to help sort it out, suggesting that they be given "time to talk to each other and run two more weeks of a campaign."

Translation: Candidates have two weeks to change council members' minds - and votes - to break the deadlock.

If there is a special election, Chaires said Thursday, there could be unintended consequences.

"The 4th District might be without representation for six of the next 24 months," she said.

"What I hadn't realized until last night is that we are also in store for tie votes for the next six months," she said. "Not only is the 4th District going to be affected, but the city as a whole."

Editor's note: This story was changed Jan. 12 to clarify that candidates have two weeks to change council members' minds - and votes - to break the deadlock.

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

Read more articles by Loretta Kalb



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