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Town Board Members Weigh Options for Filling Council Seat

Bedford's Town Board holds a work session, Jan. 7, 2014.
Bedford's Town Board holds a work session, Jan. 7, 2014.
Members of Bedford's Town Board held a work session Tuesday to discuss options for filling the vacant council seat that was held by Supervisor Chris Burdick.

The board, which has only four members out of five seats, was given an overview by Town Attorney Joel Sachs. In one case, the town board could appoint a fifth member, who could either serve as a "caretaker" or be someone who is interested in running, Burdick explained.

An election would need to be held by November and the winner, who will fill the rest of Burdick's term, would have to run again a year later if a full term is desired. However, the appointment cannot be conditioned on the appointee being a caretaker, Burdick explained.

Burdick assumed his current office on Jan. 1.

Another scenario discussed would be to hold a special election for the seat, which could come sooner than November. This path, however, is not clear because there are multiple directions involved; Sachs outlined three ways that this could be done. Two versions, which Sachs explained were not used recently, would involve having the governor call a special election or for a lawsuit being brought to compel one. The other, more common approach, would be for the town board to pass a local law, with a subsequent mandatory referendum being held at least 60 days after that. If the referendum passes, then a special election could be called.

For a local law, according to Sachs, it cannot be for a “one-time basis.” It would apply to all vacancies of elected town offices. Additionally, the town board would not have the flexibility to choose either to appoint someone or have the special election, as the latter would become the only option, a scenario that Burdick was not pleased with.

There was also discussion about whether the  town is the one to control a referendum on approval for the local law. Sachs, who noted a town role, added that the town does not have its own voting machines and the possibility of a lease from Westchester County was raised. It was then explained that the county would have jurisdiction of the subsequent special election if the local law passes. Sachs, however, felt that its board of elections is “not that knowledgeable", noting the lack of frequency for the process.

In another scenario explained, which involves doing nothing, the seat could just be left vacant until Dec. 31, 2014, although the November election would be required to be held.

Burdick, who did not expect the board to take action on Tuesday, explained he was looking to see if there could be a “consensus” that they can appoint, and wanted to move the process along.

Councilwoman Mary Beth Kass was interested in continuing to weigh options, expressing a desire to have “every fact about every path.”

The board finished its work session, and subsequent organization and regular meetings, without voting on the matter. Towards the end of the regular meeting, Burdick requested that the topic be in a Jan. 21 work session.
mark January 10, 2014 at 01:25 PM
an appointment should be made quickly. the board needs 5 members to avoid deadlocked votes... needing every fact about every path sounds like a way to stall and waste time.

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