Posted 6/29/18 (Fri)
By Daniela Gamboa
The Tioga City Commission has pushed back a decision on a special election aimed at addressing irregularities in ballot instructions.
A difference of opinion between commissioners erupted at a special meeting Tuesday. The meeting was required by statute as the normal reorganizational meeting following a city election.
Prior to that, last Friday, Mayor Drake McClelland and County Auditor Beth Innis affirmed to the Tioga Tribune that a special election would be held to satisfy concerns that erroneous ballot instructions may have impacted the outcome of one seat each on the city commission and the park board.
Commissioner Heather Weflen questioned the appropriateness of the special election announcement.
“How much command, control or authority does Drake have to sway to line up an agenda like that?” asked Weflen.
According to discussion at the Tuesday meeting, city officials were all aware of a ballot irregularity on election day, June 12.
That’s when residents were instructed they could vote for one commissioner, when they should have been instructed to vote for two.
The instructions for park board called for votes to be cast for two seats, when it should have been for three.
Commissioner Tim Sundhagen also questioned the proper procedure for calling a special election.
“The board may call a special election; it does not say the president can,” he said. “I want it to be done proper.”
McClelland quoted a statute by number, which he said allows for either the city commission or the commission president (mayor) to call a special election. Sundhagen maintained McClelland misinterpreted the statute.
“If a vacancy occurs in the office of a city commissioner or president, the board may call a special election,” said Sundhagen. “You read this wrong.”
As for the logistics of a special election, City Auditor Abby Salinas said, “Costs are minimal. We have the supplies that are needed.”
However, she said, a prescribed timeline would have to be followed.
Before any final decisions can be made the commission would like confirmation from the secretary of state and the city attorney on the exact process to be followed.
If a special election were to occur, it likely could not be held until mid-September at the earliest.
The board planned to discuss the issue again at a meeting Monday, July 2.