Robert Trigg

Elk Grove council recruits a surprise nominee to fill vacancy

Published: Thursday, Jan. 24, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 1B
Last Modified: Thursday, Jan. 24, 2013 - 7:37 am

The Elk Grove City Council, struggling to end gridlock in filling a council vacancy, failed Wednesday night to choose any of the five remaining candidates and, instead, called for former Elk Grove Unified School District Superintendent Robert Trigg to fill the post.

The action, in a 3-1 vote with Councilman Jim Cooper opposed, required a city staff member to call Trigg today to ask if he would agree to serve out the nearly two years left on the council seat vacated by then-Councilman Gary Davis after he was elected mayor in November.

Trigg retired from the school district in July 1995 after 35 years in education. He apparently had not sought the council seat, and he was not in attendance at the council meeting.

Councilman Pat Hume said he decided to propose Trigg after seeing his name posed in print by the publisher of the Elk Grove Citizen.

"I think there is something to be said for getting behind somebody who is not seeking the office," Hume said. "It allows us to not have a special election. Frankly, he has been vetted. It's his track record and his experience in the community."

Both Hume and Mayor Davis said they had talked to Trigg on the phone about the idea.

Councilman Steve Detrick said he was open to Trigg and provided the third vote. He said after the meeting that he had not yet talked to Trigg about the position.

Cooper erupted in frustration at the Trigg proposal, noting that it was bypassing a process that council members had established to fill the seat.

Both Cooper and Davis two weeks ago were steadfast in their support of city Planning Commissioner Nancy De Anda Chaires. At the same time, Hume and Detrick had sought other candidates. Hume complained that there was a perception that the process for Chaires had been tainted by comments backers had made on her behalf. On Wednesday night, Detrick agreed.

But Cooper said efforts to line up Trigg were no better than what Hume complained was being done on behalf of Chaires.

Further, Cooper said, the Trigg proposal was without public vetting since Trigg's name was raised after the public comment period closed.

"There was a complete lack of public input in this process," Cooper said. "That is not transparency. He is a good guy. But that is not the way it should be done."

Hume has said repeatedly that the "tainting" was not of Chaires' doing.

Council members had faced an unrelenting deadlock in trying to select one of six candidates who applied for the vacancy.

A solution was needed to avoid putting the question before voters at a cost of more than $550,000, several said. The earliest an election could be held is June 4, raising the prospect of months more of gridlock.

The City Council deadlocked at least five times on five candidates.

In addition to the split vote for Chaires, the council on Jan. 9 deadlocked over Oscar Portillo O'con, Jeffrey Sherwood Owen and David Glenn Conner. Owen later withdrew.

And on Wednesday night, the council split 2-2 on Edward J. Busuttil, a San Joaquin County assistant district attorney.

The only other candidate among the remaining five was LaWanna Montgomery, a teacher and president/CEO of Reach Learning Center who ran for City Council in 2004 and 2008.

Montgomery had asked council members earlier Wednesday night to call a special election.

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