What happens when half of the governing body of a town sues the other half? Edgewood is finding out.
It’s most recent council meeting started out with a court-ordered action—which failed on the vote three times.
Councilors Sherry Abraham and Audrey Jaramillo sued fellow councilors John Abrams and Linda Holle. The status of a fifth member of the governing body—mayor John Bassett—is in limbo, pending two cases at the state Supreme Court.
In the latest lawsuit, Abraham and Jaramillo sought to compel Abrams and Holle to appoint someone to fill the vacancy left by Abrams, who is serving as mayor pro tem. According to state law, the mayor pro tem is elected by the council to “fill the vacancy for the unexpired term of office” if the current mayor dies, resigns, or can’t carry out the duties of mayor.
State law also defines the mayor as a person responsible for making an appointment, “with the advice and consent of the governing body.”
When Abrams announced his first choice, Glenn Felton, Abraham and Jaramillo took issue, telling Abrams they wanted his full list for discussion.
Holle mentioned that Felton had placed third in the last election, that seated Jaramillo and Holle as the top two vote-getters in the race, and that he had both served previously as town councilor and was currently on the planning and zoning board.
Abrams made a motion to appoint him, seconded by Holle. Abrams and Holle voted for the appointment, while Abraham and Jaramillo voted against, and the motion died due to lack of a majority.
The process was then repeated for Abrams’ second nominee, Donzil Worthington, who also had served as a town councilor previously. Abrams’ motion again died due to lack of a majority, on the same vote split.
Abrams then nominated Jonathan Langoria, with the same result.
Jaramillo said she felt like she was “flying blind” without knowing Abrams’ whole list, while Abraham said he was trying to mislead the public.
With no action taken and now about an hour into the meeting, the council argued again about whether to approve minutes from a November council meeting that councilors Abraham and Jaramillo say was illegal, even though both participated in it.
The argument followed its now-familiar path, with Abraham and Jaramillo arguing that the meeting was illegal, and therefore minutes should not be approved.
The town then moved to an action item on sale of its old town hall. Holle’s motion to approve an ordinance authorizing the sale died without a second.
The town council took action on changing the name and job description of librarian specialist to librarian, and updating old language that had been cut and pasted from a Moriarty job description. The vote was unanimous.
An update from town clerk Juan Torres included a proposal for codification of all town ordinances by Code Publishing Co. at a startup cost of about $17,000 and estimated annual costs of $1,500 plus updates.
If implemented, the Code Publishing would digitize and cross-reference all town ordinances and resolutions—along with other services including a style sheet, proofreading, and a legal review encompassing state and federal constitutional questions, according to the proposal.
Another proposal from Research & Polling Inc. would address districting mandated by the change in the format of Edgewood’s government from council-mayor to commission-manager. The governing body will decide whether candidates can run “at large,” meaning from any district, or whether candidates must live within the district they want to represent.
The total cost of the proposal is $21,035. Torres said the districts will have to be based on 2010 Census data, plus additional information provided by the town about annexations and other changes in the past 11 years. Census data from 2020 is not expected to be out until late fall, Torres said.
Research & Polling said in its proposal that it “will provide the necessary professional services needed to complete the project before the start of the 2021 election calendar.”
The March 5 writ of mandamus ordering the governing body to fill the vacancy on the council created by Bassett’s removal from office affirms that the town remains in the council-mayor form of government until Jan. 1, 2022.
The writ says Abrams is “acting mayor” and that appointment of a town manager will be the responsibility of the commission, once elected.
In the end, the writ orders the governing body to appoint a new council member; to allow anyone on the governing body to place items on the agenda; to allow the public to speak during public meetings; and to take appropriate actions to transition to the commission-manager form of government, specifically redistricting.
Meanwhile, on March 9, Bassett requested a stay in his Supreme Court case against Judge Maria Sanchez-Gagne’s decision to remove him from office, arguing that the March 5 writ be included in the stay, and again requesting an expedited decision or hearing.