The vacancy was created by the recent resignation of former mayor Tom Faria.
Interim City Manager Greg Wellman outlined the four separate recommendations given to the City Council regarding the mayoral vacancy:
- Provide interested persons an opportunity to present their qualifications to the city council to fill the vacancy,
- Consider qualifications and presentations of interested persons,
- Appoint a qualified person to fill the vacancy by adoption of a resolution, or
- Provide direction to staff on how to proceed.
As a result of the resignation of the former mayor, effective September 17, the council has been given 60 days to fill the vacancy with a qualified person. Wellman added that there were also 34 days until the November 8 election, when a mayor can be appointed based on the election results.
Wellman clarified that there are no specific procedures or formal application required to appoint a qualified person as mayor, and that the Brown Act requires any interviews to be done at a public meeting.
Council member Brett Jones, speaking first on the item, stated that the council needs to fill the seat as quickly as possible. “I would hate for important agenda items to get dropped due to a split vote,” Jones said.
“I don’t see the need to wait until November 8,” Jones added. “I would like to move forward with appointing a mayor for the remainder of the unexpired term after we hear the presentation by the potential candidate.”
Mayor Pro Tem Kenneth Lambert, also in favor of appointing a mayor for the remainder of the unexpired term, said that it is essential the council has all five votes in order to prevent an item from being dropped due to a 2-2 vote.
Council member Deborah Lewis, on the other hand, did not share the sense of urgency to fill the vacancy and maintained that the mayor should be determined by election votes in November. “I’m not in the position, at this time, or ready to make that decision to make an appointment because I don’t think it’s necessary,” Lewis said.
“The last time we made an appointment was because there was going to be a 2-year vacancy, not a 34-day vacancy. I personally feel that we have to wait for the will of the people,” Lewis added.
Council member Llamas pointed out that the policies and procedures to fill the vacancy are inconsistent with the previous time a mayoral vacancy was filled. “I don’t believe that we should undermine the democratic process for expediency’s sake,” Llamas said. “I would like to have a more robust interview process so that the public is more engaged.”
Llamas added that the most urgent issue currently facing the council is the homeless situation in Los Banos and how it is affecting residents of the Rancho Los Banos Mobile Home Park.
Paul Llanez, the only person running for office of mayor in Los Banos, was present at the meeting and prepared to give a five-minute presentation to the council as to why he should fill the vacancy for the former Mayor’s unexpired term. Before he could do so, a motion had to be made by a council member and approved with a majority vote in order to go forward with this process.
Council member Jones initiated a motion to consider the qualifications and presentations of interested people, which was met with a 2-2 split vote, with Council members Lewis and Llamas dissenting. The motion was dropped, and no other council member made any further motions.
Towards the end of the meeting during council member reports, Lewis concluded, “However things turn out, I will live with it and work with it, but I still think we need to follow the processes and honor the people who take their time to go to the ballot box and vote.”