Three Bellevue City Council members don't see an end to a stalemate with the mayor over who should fill a vacant council seat.
So they've proposed an alternative: Call a special election and let the voters decide.
The proposal appeared for a short time on the agenda for next Monday's council meeting. But an assistant city attorney asked that it be taken off because, he said in a letter, the council members didn't request the item early enough.
The council can't vote on the resolution until its May 13 meeting, wrote Assistant City Attorney Timothy Buckley.
Councilwoman Carol Blood, one of the three who proposed the special election, said she was disappointed to see a vote put off.
“I think it's important to the voters,” Blood said.
Another, council President Don Preister, said he thought the proposal would qualify as “an emergency” and therefore could be voted on earlier.
“I felt it met the standard, and I felt we should move ahead as quickly and expeditiously as we can,” he said.
The seat has been vacant for about a month, since former Ward 1 Councilman Scott Houghtaling resigned because he was moving.
The new council member will serve until December 2016, nearly a full four-year term.
Under city ordinances, the mayor appoints a candidate to fill a vacancy, and the City Council votes on whether to confirm the appointee.
At the last council meeting, three members blocked Mayor Rita Sanders' pick, local businessman Mike Hall.
Those council members — Blood, Preister and Scott Knutson — said they preferred another Ward 1 businessman, Dave Compton.
They said Compton is more involved in local government and has a deeper understanding of Bellevue.
Sanders said that Compton isn't an acceptable choice and that some had expressed reservations about him.
She said after the meeting that she planned to reappoint Hall to the seat.
The three council members said that when it became clear they weren't going to reach a consensus, they started looking for other solutions.
“If the mayor and the council see it differently, then the right people to make the selection are the people of Ward 1,” Preister said.
“I'd rather not spend the money, but I think it's in the best interest of the people living in the area and the democratic process.”
A special election would cost up to $7,000 and wouldn't happen until July or later, Sarpy County Election Commissioner Wayne Bena said.
Fellow council member Kathy Saniuk, however, questioned the council members' intent.
Saniuk said she doesn't see it as the council's job to force the mayor to appoint its preferred candidate, and she said Hall is an acceptable choice.
“It's her choice,” Saniuk said. “It's one of the few privileges the mayor has.”
Saniuk sees her colleagues' special-election proposal as an attempt to get Compton on the council.
“I don't understand out of a pool of nine applicants why some of the council members will only accept one person,” Saniuk said. “I see that as somewhat narrow-minded.”
Blood said there's no guarantee that Compton or anyone else would win an election.
“Whoever earns the most votes and knocks on the most doors is going to be the person that gets elected,” she said.
Compton said he hasn't spoken much to the three council members about the issue.
“I do participate in our city and our county a lot, and you could see that by my résumé,” Compton said.
“And when you do that, you get to know people. Hopefully that's why (the three council members are) doing that.”
He said he would file to run for the seat if a special election were called.
Hall said it was too early to know whether he would run.
“I'll have to wait and see how this is going to unfold,” he said. “It may not ever get there.”
He said he told Sanders that he would be willing to be renominated.
“I was hoping that they would keep an open mind and let me help them to help Bellevue,” Hall said.
Councilman Paul Cook, who voted with Saniuk to confirm Hall, did not return a phone message.
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