The Pasco City Council must decide whether to follow legal advice and select its next member from west Pasco, or fill the vacancy based on older district boundaries.
Council members have 90 days to appoint a person to Mike Garrison’s vacant seat.
The longtime councilman died July 27 after a recent diagnosis of leukemia.
The vacancy is the last item on the Sept. 6 regular meeting agenda. The council meets at 7 p.m. at Pasco City Hall, 525 N. Third Ave.
Council members are set to vote on whether the open position will be advertised for District 2 or District 4.
The goal is to have all applications submitted by Sept. 30, so candidates can be interviewed and an appointment made by Oct. 24.
Garrison, who was first elected to the council in November 1987, represented District 2 in central Pasco. His term does not expire until Dec. 31, 2017.
The problem is that in early 2015 — 1 1/2 years after Garrison’s last re-election — the council redrew its district boundaries to accommodate changes in the growing city’s population.
That revision created an anomaly, with two council members in District 2 and no one on District 4.
Councilman Bob Hoffmann’s home shifted from District 3 to District 2, which is generally between Fourth Avenue and Highway 395, south of Interstate 182.
And Councilman Saul Martinez, who had represented District 4 since 2010, found his home in District 3.
City Attorney Leland Kerr and Deputy City Manager Stan Strebel say the issue would have corrected itself with the 2017 election.
But now, with Garrison’s untimely death, the decision is left to his fellow council members.
Kerr explained at the Aug. 22 meeting that state law envisions the possibility of a change in lines displacing a council member from the district from which they were elected.
“It does not in any way mean to forfeit the position of the city council member,” he said. Instead, the council must reassign responsibilities, he added.
The majority of council members appeared to agree with Kerr’s interpretation of state law putting the current vacancy in District 4.
Martinez said he is “on the bubble,” recognizing that there are likely good candidates in either district. But he noted that District 4 needs a council member right now living within those boundaries, and Kerr explained that decision is more defensible by law.
“To me, whatever we decide, there is going to be an election in 2017,” Martinez said. “So this is kind of a temporary shoe in the door for somebody to get the opportunity for experience, and so we have help on the board in case somebody is not here.”
However, Councilman Al Yenney questioned if the board should revert to the 2013 district boundaries under which Garrison was last elected in choosing a replacement.
Yenney said he sees that city staff is trying to do this in a way that makes it “nice and clean,” but he doesn’t think he can support it.
“(Garrison) was elected from 2 and I think that’s where the appointment should come from,” he said.
Leo Perales with the Latino Coalition and David Cortinas in addressing the council seemed to agree with Yenney, saying a person from Garrison’s district should be appointed to carry out the term instead of shifting people right now. Then, in the 2017 election, the vacancy can be moved to District 4, they said.
Perales previously said the Latino Coalition has found viable and qualified candidates to run out of District 2.
Councilwoman Rebecca Francik said no one should assume there aren’t people of different ethnicities living in District 4 who might be interested in applying.