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Deadlocked - Special Election Looms
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Riverbank City Council members met on Monday, Jan. 28 but again failed to resolve the major issue facing them: an empty council seat.

The 6 p.m. session Monday at the Council Chambers featured discussion of the vacancy and how to fill the seat as the hot item on the agenda. At the last council meeting the councilmembers were deadlocked 2-2 on how to move forward with the vacant seat. Mayor Richard O'Brien and vice mayor Jeanine Tucker both voted to go with the candidate that received the next highest number of votes in the November 2012 General Municipal Election, which would be Cal Campbell. He was third in the race for two council seats, with Tucker and Darlene Barber-Martinez the top two. Councilmembers Dotty Nygard and Barber-Martinez, however, voted against filling the seat with Campbell, instead suggesting opening up the seat to anyone interested in running. Since the vote was split down the middle then, there was no progress from the council on filling the vacant seat.

The proposed appointment option to fill the vacant councilmember seat was put back on the agenda for the Monday night meeting in hopes of averting a costly special election. Since this is the last time the city council will meet before the Feb. 8 deadline occurs, officials said the continuing deadlock makes it almost inevitable there will be a special election for the seat in June.

Vice Mayor Tucker began the discussion on Monday by suggesting that there are other options besides having a special election and she wanted to make sure everyone looked at all the options. O'Brien said he had received more than 100 emails in favor of filling the seat with Cal Campbell.

"I believe that he (Campbell) should be the appointment. I am not in favor of declaring the last option (special election)," said O'Brien.

Councilmembers Nygard and Barber-Martinez held firm with their vote to hold a special election.

"I think at this point it should go to a special election and allow the people to vote," said Nygard, with Barber-Martinez echoing the sentiment.

Several people that filled the council meeting seats were eager to see if there would be a decision made on the council vacancy, but even those taking the podium during comments from the floor were split on what to do. Comments were made both in favor of Campbell's appointment and the special election, with some also suggesting that an election would give former mayor Virginia Madueno an opportunity to run for the post. Madueno lost her re-election bid for mayor to O'Brien, who left his council post to seek the seat.

With only 10 days left to make a decision before the Feb. 8 deadline, the council remains deadlocked with a 2-2 split and if no agreement is reached by the deadline, the only option will be having the special election. That could cost the city up to roughly $50,000.