Dover City Councilman David Anderson's proposal to amend the city charter so that unelected substitutes could serve on City Council in lieu of councilpersons absent for extended periods was voted down by council 5-2 Monday night.
Anderson was absent from Monday night's meeting for training he had to attend as a member of the Delaware Army National Guard in advance of his deployment to the war in Afghanistan. The possibility of him being deployed was one of the reasons he asked the Office of the City Clerk to draft the proposed amendment.
The amendment would have added "a provision for elected officials to designate temporary successors" in the event that they were absent or unable to exercise the powers and duties of the office for an extended period of time due to physical, mental or legal reasons. The council resolution also would have changed the provisions regarding the filling of vacancies for the mayor and council seats to specify that offices vacated within six months of the next election would remain vacant until the next election. And offices vacated for more than six months from the next election would have been filled through a special election.
Anderson had said at the Feb. 25 Legislative, Finance & Administration Committee that the resolution would put City Council on equal footing with administrative positions, for which the city had mechanism in place for interim executive positions. The fact that the Delaware General Assembly amended the city's charter to double City Council terms to four years also added to the need for this resolution, he said previously.
Councilman Sean Lynn, chairman of the legislative committee, tried in vain to have the measure tabled on account of Anderson's absence until the latter's return. Only Council President Tom Leary and Councilman Wallace Dixon supported his motion, which failed by a 3-4 vote.
Councilman Adam Perza then moved for an up or down vote, seconded by Councilman James Hutchison. Perza had said during committee that temporary placeholders would take away some of the integrity of council, while Hutchison pointed out that each district had two council members and there was one at large member of council to ensure everyone was fairly represented.
Lynn asked Perza if he would include an amendment, but Perza refused, pointing out that the substitute was not before council. The measure was then voted down by council, prompting Lynn to lambaste his colleagues for not waiting until Anderson return to council before his military deployment.
"This is politics at its worst," Lynn said.
That prompted a response from Councilman William Hare and Councilwoman Beverly Williams.
"Isn't this the one he voted against?" Hare said, referring to Lynn's action during committee on Feb. 25.
"So, it's not politics as usual," Williams added.
Page 2 of 2 - Lynn explained that he was still opposed to Anderson's proposal for unelected, "temporary successors," per se. But, he supported the part of the resolution written up by the Office of the City Clerk that said any vacancy caused by death or resignation, etc., less than six months from the next election would remain vacant.
He pointed out to his colleagues that council failed "to segregate that out" when it voted the resolution down.
As pointed out by the Office of the City Clerk, any charter amendment would have required approval by the Delaware General Assembly, which granted Dover and all the state's cities and towns their charters.