Thousand Oaks leaders decide against a special election to fill the seat of the late city official.
Source of this article – Los Angeles Times, December 8, 2005
By Gregory W. Griggs
Times Staff Writer
The Thousand Oaks City Council has decided to appoint someone to fill the seat of lawyer Ed Masry, who died Monday of complications from diabetes.
Masry resigned from the council last week, citing his failing health. He had served only one year of his four-year second term, much of it while hospitalized. His former colleagues decided it would cost too much — at least $250,000 — to hold a special election next spring.
“It wouldn’t break the bank, but a quarter of a million dollars is a lot of money and this is an area where I don’t think we need to spend it,” Councilman Dennis Gillette said Wednesday. “I think the four of us are knowledgeable enough about the needs of the office.”
Gillette said he was sure the person appointed would act independently. “Will there be some criticism of the process? In Thousand Oaks? Probably. Will we work our way through it? Most assuredly,” he said.
The council made the decision last week, in a 3-1 vote, after Masry resigned. People interested in filling the seat of the fiery environmental lawyer only have until Friday to submit an application.
The city’s mayor was the only council member who voted against appointing a replacement for Masry.
Mayor Claudia Bill-de la Peña said she believes holding a special election is a better option, in keeping with Masry’s wishes.
“When there are three years left in a term, it should be decided by a vote of the people, not by appointment,” she said. “Edward has always wanted to let the people decide.”
Masry had said he would prefer an election if he could not continue to serve, but ultimately decided to leave the issue to the remaining council members, said his son, Louis.
“My father said he would respect whatever the council decided, but my father’s wishes were to have a special election, regardless of cost,” Louis Masry said. “I don’t think he felt you can put a price on democracy.”
In its 41-year history, Thousand Oaks twice has held special elections to fill vacant council seats. The council opted once before to make an appointment, when attorney Chuck Cohen was selected to complete the term of Robert Talley in February 1967. Cohen won election the following year and served until 1972.
State law gives cities 30 days to select a replacement council member or schedule an election. Council members said an election would be costly because Ventura County does not have an election scheduled in April and the city would need to hire a private firm to supervise its balloting. A spring election probably would cost more than $250,000, while balloting in the June primary would cost about $178,000, they said.
Councilwoman Jacqui Irwin said the added expense is unnecessary at a time when the city is facing rising costs for public safety services and has pledged to spend $250,000 on relief for victims of Hurricane Katrina and the agencies that assisted them.
Thousand Oaks residents who are 18 years old and registered to vote are eligible for consideration. Applications are available at City Hall or from the city’s website, http://www.toaks.org , and must be hand-delivered to the city clerk’s office by noon Friday. Applicants must also be available for interviews at the council’s next meeting on Dec. 13, when members expect to make their selection. The new member would take office on Dec. 15.