Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Ferguson to Retain Mayor Position For Longer Than Expected

Since the Sallisaw mayoral election in February there has been much reading of the Sallisaw city charter, searching through past legal decisions, discussion, speculation and coffee shop talk about who would fill the spot being left vacant after the unusual circumstances of the February election.

Initially seeking the office of mayor on the February ballot were George Bormann and current Ward 2 City Commissioner Jim Hudgens. Bormann and Hudgens were running to fill the post after current mayor Julie Ferguson decided to not seek re-election for the office. February election results revealed Bormann won the election over Hudgens.

However, Bormann had tried to withdraw his candidacy one day too late to take his name off the ballot. Bormann explained that he was told by his current employer, the Oklahoma Corporation Commission, that it would be a conflict of interest if he worked for the commission and served as Sallisaw's mayor. That left no clear replacement for Ferguson.

City Attorney, John Robert Montgomery, presented his findings regarding the city's legal obligation regarding the election on Wednesday in writing to City Manager Clayton Lucas, current Mayor Julie Ferguson, as well as to the four current city commissioners.

Montgomery cited sections of the City of Sallisaw Charter as well as the Constitution of the State of Oklahoma and the rulings in several legal cases. These items were used to reach Montgomery's finding as presented to the above mentioned persons which states...

"Therefore, pursuant to the City of Sallisaw Charter and the Constituion of the State of Oklahoma, it appears that there is currently a vacancy in the office of Mayor, for the term beginning April 17, 2017, as George Bormann did not qualify within the ten days after notice of his election by taking the oath and posting the required bond; that Julia Ferguson, the current elective Mayor, continues in her office on and after April 17, 2017, and until her successor is duly qualified; and that her appointed successor becomes qualified by taking the oath and entering into a good and sufficient bond in the sum of $5,000."

Ferguson was initially expected to step down from her position at noon on April 17. 

According to City Manager Clayton Lucas the next city mayor will be appointed and voted into office by the city commission. "The city charter states very clearly that it does not allow for a special election in these circumstances. It states that the 'council shall' appoint a new mayor." Lucas explained that the city council will seek interested individuals living within city limits. Any commission member, including the current mayor, can make a motion to appoint an individual at the appropriate council meeting and time. If no second is received by another commission member the nomination will die for lack of a second. At that time another nomination can be made. If the nomination does receive a second, the mayor will call for a vote. The nomination must be approved by a majority vote.

Once a nomination is approved the individual is required by city charter to be bonded by the city for $5,000. Once bonded, the new mayor will take office. The new mayor will serve until the next regular election at which time they will have to run for election to the office if they wish to retain it. The next election will be held in February 2018.

City Commissioner Julian Mendiola has asked the council to consider holding a special meeting between the April's regular city council meeting and the May meeting to discuss the appointment, according to Lucas.

"I, along with the other city employees, will be remaining neutral but will be available to help with the process in any way possible," Lucas added. "I respect the decisions of our city commission and appreciate their service."

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