Broken Arrow councilors begin appointment process for open seat


By John Dobberstein, Editor

The Broken Arrow City Council voted Monday to start the process for appointing someone from a potential field of interested candidates to fill the vacant Ward 4 seat.

At a special meeting slated for June 19, city councilors plan to hear pitches from candidates interested in being appointed to the open seat. More details about the application process will be released soon.

A couple of weeks ago, most council members favored slating a special election to fill the near-full term remaining in Ward 4 after Joe Franco resigned.

Oklahoma statutes state when a vacancy occurs in an office of an elected municipal official, except the mayor, “the governing body shall appoint by a majority vote of the remaining members, a person to fill the vacancy…” Some councilors believe the language directs them to fill the seat by appointment.

“I’m a person that feels like the people always need to have a voice because I represent people. We all do,” said Ward 3 Councilwoman Christi Gillespie. “But once I really read (the statute), I felt the first ‘shall’ is telling us we’re supposed to appoint.”

Mayor Debra Wimpee said she believed appointing a replacement was the right interpretation because state law doesn’t specify how far along a city councilor must fulfill their term to determine if an appointment or election should be chosen.

“Well, I disagree” said At-Large City Councilor Johnnie Parks. “The Supreme Court has ruled that ‘shall’ is ambiguous and it means several different things. And they are recommending to the legal people that they do away with shall and use something that is more definitive of exactly where it needs to be.”

He also felt elections give the public a chance to understand why a candidate is running and what they plan to do.

City Attorney Trevor Dennis said he wasn’t aware of any authority that “explicitly defines” what the “shall” references mean in the statute. “I don’t think it’s ever been litigated.”

The city plans to release official information on the application process Tuesday or Wednesday. City Clerk Curtis Green and the city’s legal team will vet candidates to ensure they’ve lived in Ward 4 at least 6 months, are registered to vote and are not violating dual office-holding provisions in state law.

A special election – which would cost the city an estimated $45,000 – could still happen if nobody comes forward and completes the process, or the council chooses not to appoint any of the interested candidates and takes no other action by July 11.

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