Broken Arrow City Council tables decision on open seat
By John Dobberstein, Editor
The Broken Arrow City Council tabled their decision Tuesday on how to fill a vacant council seat so they can mull over the options and potentially make a decision at their next regular meeting.
City Attorney Trevor Dennis led council members through a complicated array of scenarios and deadlines based on whether they choose to appoint someone to fill Joe Franco’s seat, or call for a special election.
Because Franco only served about a month before resigning, most councilors seemed to favor holding a special election to give voters a chance to decide on who represents them. But a special election will cost about $45,000, city officials said.
Franco resigned from the City Council on May 12, saying the demands of the job was taking too much time away from his family and career. He also mentioned he may be moving to another city or state and that would make him ineligible to serve.
The city must follow applicable state laws about handling a vacancy on the CIty Council. If the City Council chooses to appoint someone to fill the open seat, they must do so within 60 days or a special election must be held. So the council has until July 11 to make an appointment.
Anyone who'd be considered for that appointment would have to meet all the necessary criteria, including having lived in Ward 4 for at least 6 months.
Dennis says there's no set process under state law to consider appointments — the City Council would simply vote on an appointment at an open meeting.
If that's not done within 60 days, appointment is off the table and the City Council would have to pass a resolution calling for a special election. Then the city would discuss available election dates with the Tulsa County Election Board.
Dennis said the resolution would have to be passed at least 60 days before the election date, which at the earliest would be Sept. 12. That would require the resolution to be approved in July.
More questions came up about how long an appointed member would serve vs. an elected one.
Dennis said the current unexpired term for the Ward 4 seat is April 19, 2027. But if someone is appointed, they would by statute only serve until the next general election in April 2025.
The person appointed would have the ability to file for that seat, or it would be open to anyone else who would meets the requirements.
The City Council must not only meet the 60-day declaration window for a special election, but designate a full 3 days for a filing period for candidates — “but it can't be more than 20 days from the date of the resolution,” Dennis explained.
“You also have to ensure the date of this special general election is not less than 45 days after they close the filing period. So you’ve got to do some calculations.”
If the City Council chose to wait until the 60-day window is almost over and no action was taken, an election resolution would have to be passed and turned in to the Tulsa County Election Board by July 13. The appointment deadline is July 11, which would leave only one day to set the process in motion for a September special election.
“I just want to be as transparent as possible, and if we do decide to do the special election, we should let people think about the process and what they want to do,” said Ward 3 Councilor Christi Gillespie. “Giving them a two- or three-day turnaround is not right.“
Dennis said it’s possible for the City Council to pass a non-binding directive for a special election but reverse course and make an appointment before the July 11 deadline