On Tuesday, the Brentwood City Council could not come to a consensus on how to fill its vacant city council seat and have opted to create a community survey asking the community what their desire would be.
The vacant council seat was vacated after Joel Bryant was elected mayor. Tuesday saw two motions fail and the council was clearly divided in how to move forward.
The council will decide between an all-mail special election which would be held on May 4, 2021 at a cost between $140,488 and $200,640 or could do a polling place/mail ballot special election on Nov. 2 at a cost between $200,640 and $280,896.
Or, the council can elected to perform an appointment process to fill the vacant at-large seat. In this process, applicants would apply for appointment and qualified applicants would be interviewed at a Special City Council meeting with applications due January 4 and interviews on January 7.
After public comments, many which supported the appointment of Karen Rarey who was the second highest vote getter in the recent mayoral election, the council discussed its options.
Jovita Mendoza stated she was against an application process and would not change her mind on that stating the last time they did an appointment the people thought the “fix” was in.
“We know Brentwood residents are apprehensive on how they feel about us and what we are doing for them and is it in their interest and not in special interest,” stated Mendoza. “The application process just feels really uneasy. It’s the one with the least amount of resident engagement.”
She was also critical of the application saying she wouldn’t hire anyone with it because there was no “teeth” in it.
“If I wouldn’t hire anyone for my place of employment, I wouldn’t put them in charge of it for all of the residents. Its just not going to happen” stated Mendoza. “I don’t want to spend the money on a special election, I really don’t but for me, I am just feeling that Karen Rarey was selected as the second highest vote getter so the people have spoken.”
Mendoza stated she would feel most comfortable by appointing Rarey to the council seat.
“We can appoint her tonight and we can have her up and running,” stated Mendoza.
Susannah Meyer stated she would rather not resort to a special election but was not opposed to a special election saying the residents have already spoken which put Rarey in second while running down several reasons why she should be appointed.
Meyer then highlighted how the application process was not what residents want and was critical that the process would get a viable candidate appointed—whereas Rarey could be a knowledgeable asset to the council.
“The residents have already spoken and I agree Karen Rarey is the best person for our open fifth seat,” stated Meyer.
Johnny Rodriquez highlighted that he believed a special election was very costly and had concerns about both Mendoza and Meyers comments about Rarey.
“Currently we have two councilmembers and a mayor who live within a mile of one another and if councilmember Rarey was to come back as a councilmember, that means everybody would live within a mile of one another,” stated Rodriguez who noted others have brought up the same concern. “It goes back to what it used to be which is one of the biggest reasons why I was asked to run due to lack of representation for the whole community.”
Rodriquez highlighted that the previous process may not be the best but the current council could fix it with feedback from the community so it is effective.
He also touched on election dynamics saying Rarey ran at-large for mayor while other great candidates ran in Districts and would do well if it was at-large saying they would also do well.
He proposed they go forward with the application and interview process.
“I am not for a special election, I think it costs too much,” stated Rodriquez.
Mendoza challenged Rodriquez on his stance and after about 10-minutes of back and forth, she stated in the application process she wanted the residents to interview the candidates in an application process to ensure public participation.
Mayor Joel Bryant stated there was nothing easy about this decision after he read all the comments and emails submitted. He said a lot had been stated tonight about the voting and while the voters voices are essential, more than 70% of voters wanted someone other than councilperson Rarey.
“That is a huge amount of people who put their voice in who wanted some diversity,” stated Bryant noting with regards to District 4, this is an at-large seat and they can’t recommend an election for District 4, but he had concerns about the density of where the council is living. “It has always been a process in the past that we were all at-large and that process… they had a lot of input from the community that they were not comfortable not having representation from other areas.”
Bryant said that he was not for a special election due to the cost and $200k could be spent on helping small business and families—saying they could hash out an application process and create a fair process.
Bryant then requested more discussion.
Mendoza chimed in saying after Measure L and the council wearing the “Scarlett Letter” for the rest of the time, she was not ready for an application process and unwilling to budge.
“For me, we either selected the second highest vote getter in the at-large race, or we go to an election. But I will not do that again to our residents of Brentwood,” stated Mendoza who called Measure L a slap in the face to residents.
Bryant argued that the 72-percent of residents who didn’t vote for Rarey was a loud communication.
Mendoza shot back saying this is all over social media and not one person has called for an appointment process and everyone wants Rarey appointed.
“They want Karen, given them Karen,” stated Mendoza who called her “phenomenal”.
Meyer questioned the application process in ensuring it was fair and how they could find someone more qualified than Rarey for this role at this exact time.
Rodriguez said they wouldn’t know until they go through the process but just because you sat in the seat, it doesn’t make one qualified—just cause you speak well doesn’t make one qualified. Many others could be just as good but have not been given an opportunity.
“For me, the interview and application process is important because maybe there will be someone else and if Karen Rarey wants to apply, then she should,” stated Rodriquez. “But we will never know if we go with the second highest vote getter.”
Mendoza stated if you are not choosing Rarey now, what would make you choose her later.
Rodriguez shot back saying he wasn’t there to be critique someone and this wasn’t the time but wanted others to have an opportunity.
Bryant chimed it saying through an application process it was possible that they could find someone as qualified as Rarey.
“We have heard a couple times tonight it would be a slap in the face, but it would equality be a slap in the face because again, 72% of the residents specifically chose not to ask for councilmember Rarey to stay on council. That is an enormous amount of people,” stated Bryant.
Bryant said tonight they had to make a decision on an application or a special election saying it would be heartbreaking to have to spend $200k on a special election saying the money could go to help families.
Mendoza then made a motion to select the second highest vote getter (Karen Rarey) in the last mayoral election to fill the vacant seat. Meyer seconded. The motion failed in 2-2 vote with Bryant and Rodriquez dissenting.
Mendoza then made a motion to go to a mail-in special election to fill the vacant seat—Meyer seconded. That motion also failed in a 2-2 vote with Bryant and Rodriquez dissenting.
Mendoza then proposed they create a survey and ask the residents what they want in selecting the second highest vote getter in the mayoral race, an appointment process or a special election.
Meyer highlighted they received a 100 phone calls and emails with many of them using Karen Rarey by name in what they wanted.
The council opted to create a survey, however, if they moved towards a special election, they do it as quickly as possible. The city council will have a special meeting to approve a survey and application process.
The survey is anticipated to go out on Wednesday which would include characteristics, qualifications, and where they live—anything they could legally ask stated City Manager Tim Ogden.
Mendoza wanted the survey to include if residents wanted second highest vote getter, special election or application process—then what would you like to see in an application process.
Meyer asked Bryant and Rodriquez how they would respond if a survey stated the community wanted the second highest vote getter. Rodriquez said he respects surveys, but not everyone is going to get on a computer and complete it—especially the older population.
“We are also put in this position, these seats, because we are put in a place to represent the voice of people who don’t use technology or don’t trust the system or the people that feel that they are below,” stated Rodriquez. “My thing is, I am not saying there is anything wrong with a survey, I am not saying that its not a good process, but also at the same time we are looking at 40,000 to 45,000 registered voters, on top of that, you have mentioned there is 100 people who have written or called, there is still 39,999 other people.”
Rodriquez highlighted how he didn’t care how many surveys they have, not everyone is going to respond and is this now going to be in Spanish and English?
Meyer stated she would not argue with anything he was saying, but wanted to get representation for everyone to take part in and be heard.
The council provided city staff direction to create a survey and create a process on whether they want a special election, appointment process and what the criteria would be in what they consider, or do they want the second highest vote getter in the mayors race.
It is anticipated more information on this survey will be released late Wednesday.
- Joel Bryant – 29.34% (9,209)
- Karen Rarey – 27.46% (8,619)
- Paul Lafollette – 14.77% (4,634)
- Ryan Raimondi – 11.61% (3,643)
- Edward Schuck – 10.16% (3,188)
- Steve Young – 5.41% (1,698)
- Brian Carleton – 1.25% (392)
District 1 Race
- Jovita Mendoza – 28.79% (1,877)
- Faye Maloney – 25.60% (1,669)
- Brian Swisher – 24.36% (1,588)
- Claudette Staton – 21.25% (1,385)
District 3 Race
- Susannah Meyer – 44.31% (3,609)
- Indrani Golden – 30.14% (2,455)
- Olga Vidriales – 25.55% (2,081)
According to the City of Brentwood, since 1949, there have been 18 vacancies on the Brentwood City Council, and these were filled 16 times by appointment. The two vacancies filled by special election occurred when the vacancy resulted from a resignation, not an election vacancy (1984, 2005).
Residents may participate during the city’s council meeting on Tuesday, December 15, 2020, at 7:00 p.m. The proceedings can be viewed virtually at: https://www.brentwoodca.gov/councilmeetingonline.
The mayor is an elected position, serving four-year terms. The City Council members are elected and serve four-year terms. The City Council elections are held in November of even numbered years.
For the full agenda of the Dec. 15 meeting, click here.