Dover City Council members worked to negotiate a regulatory minefield during their annual council meeting Monday night, trying to determine Council President David Bonar’s status as mayor pending the election of a new chief executive in June.
The city charter elevates the council president to the role of mayor when that office is vacated, as happened when Mayor Carleton E. Carey Sr. resigned on April 25. Council accomplished this task with a resolution passed at their April 28 meeting.
But under that resolution, Bonar was stripped of his right to vote as a member of council, technically making him ineligible to stand for re-election to that post, which occurs during the annual council meeting.
To fix that problem, council rescinded the April 28 resolution, while reaffirming actions Bonar accomplished during that time.
A flurry of discussions and back-and-forth disagreements then ensued, including an effort to elect Tim Slavin or Bill Hare to the council’s top position, but that effort failed because one council member submitted a blank secret ballot.
Bonar then said he was resigning as mayor, effective immediately, thus making him again eligible for the council presidency. Slavin withdrew his name from consideration and Bonar was elected with eight of the nine possible votes. Councilman Sean Lynn, who had raised several procedural objections during the discussions, abstained.
City Solicitor Nick Rodriguez later settled the question of who would act as mayor by saying Bonar’s status is covered under Section 15 of the charter, which reads:
“During a vacancy in the office of mayor or during the absence or disability of the mayor, the vice-mayor shall have all the powers and duties of the mayor, except as hereinafter provided. The council president and vice-mayor shall retain his/her right to vote as councilman at all times although he/she may be acting as the mayor, unless the mayor’s absence appears to be indefinite or extended …”
Since the April 28 resolution was passed, Dover City Clerk Traci McDowell had set June 17 as the date for a special election to select a new mayor, Rodriguez said.
Because the June 17 date set a finite time the mayor’s office would be vacant, the solicitor said Bonar would be able to continue as interim mayor, but also retain his rights as a councilman.
Due to the controversy, as well as Lynn’s announcement he was resigning as chairman of council’s Legislative, Finance and Administration Committee to concentrate on his campaign for the state House of Representative, Bonar deferred council committee and other appointments until council’s May 27 session.
Bonar also closed out the two-and-a-half hour session by saying he would step down in May 2015.
“I will tell you that after this term is over, in May, I will not seek re-election to City Council or any other political office,” he said.
The council president, who had served on council during the 1990s, was re-elected in May 2010.