When Elk Grove City Councilman Gary Davis ran for mayor last November and won, he left his District 4 council seat vacant. The City Council must either appoint someone to finish the remainder of Davis' term or hold a special election at an estimated cost of $550,000 to fill the vacancy.
Clearly an appointment would be preferable, but the council is deadlocked 2-2. Mayor Davis and Councilman Jim Cooper support city planning commissioner Nancy Chaires. Councilmen Steve Detrick and Pat Hume support small-business owner Oscar Portillo O'con.
Neither O'con nor Chaires is willing to step aside. So to avoid a costly special election on June 4, one or more council members are going to have to change their minds. Their meeting on Wednesday may be their last chance.
Both leading contenders have strong backing and a history of service to Elk Grove. Both are capable. But O'con has an obvious conflict of interest that makes him unsuitable to serve on the council. He owns a small public relations and marketing firm and two of his clients, the Elk Grove Auto Mall and Pappas Investments, a major regional land developer, are big economic players in Elk Grove. The council regularly debates and votes on issues that affect both businesses.
O'con says he would recuse himself from participation in those matters, but that means he would be unable to weigh in on some potentially important decisions. That is a problem. Also, as we've seen with this 2-2 split over the council appointment, a recusal by any council member creates the potential for endless deadlocks.
Chaires has no such conflict. She is well-educated, experienced in government and, as a member of the city's planning commission since 2008, both up to date and extremely knowledgeable about issues facing Elk Grove. Also, as a woman, she would bring welcome gender diversity to what is currently an all-male council.
This should not be a difficult decision. The City Council would save half a million dollars and add a superbly qualified candidate to the council at the same time by appointing Chaires to fill the District 4 vacancy.