Jeff council slates special election to fill vacancy

Several speak in favor of appointing Sebourn

~by Janice Harbaugh for GreeneCountyNewsOnline

Filling the council seat left vacant when council member Matt Gordon was elected mayor of Jefferson was the topic of the evening at the council meeting Jan 14. More than 15 people came to observe the discussion and to voice opinions as to how it should be done.

At previous meetings, city attorney Bob Schwarzkopf had outlined two possibilities: appointment of someone to fill out the remaining two years of Gordon’s term or a special election to elect someone for the two years.

In recent weeks, a group of voters wrote letters in support of the appointment of Sean Sebourn to the council. Sebourn had run in the last election against David Sloan and Matt Wetrich for two seats on the council. Sloan and Wetrich prevailed, though Sebourn came in a close third.

“Why spend taxpayer money for an election?” was the question asked by several people in the audience who were in support of Sebourn being appointed to the seat.

Council member David Sloan said other people have shown interest in the position. Sloan also spoke to the two years left in the term as being a significant amount of time.

Council member Darren Jackson said, “The threshold for citizens wanting to run in a special election is (a petition signed by) less than 35 people, a certain percentage of the number of voters in the previous election.” His point was that there could be more people than Sebourn interested in the council seat and it would be a simple matter to find supporters for candidacy.

Several members of the audience asked, “How many people want to run?”
Mayor Gordon said he knew of one person who was interested but did not want to divulge the name. Other council members identified Pat Zmolek. Zmolek was present at the meeting but did not speak.

Sebourn supporters expressed irritation at the idea of other people now showing interest in the seat. “They should have been there in the general election rather than showing up now,” one supporter said.

Another member of the audience expressed anger toward the council as a group for “going out and beating the bushes looking for someone to run, instead of just doing a simple appointment.”

The council discussed appointment vs election and, as a group, denied actively searching for people interested in the seat. Because of the time left in the term and the interest of other people in running for election to the vacant seat, the council voted to have a special election. The motion was by Sloan and seconded by Jackson.

Filing date for the special election is Feb 7. The election will be Mar 3. The election will be for the remainder of Gordon’s term, two years.

In other business, a public hearing was set for Jan. 28 at 5:30 pm at city hall for the 100 E. State St roof structure and roof installation project (Angie’s Tea Garden.)

Mark Clouse, Jefferson police chief, presented an extensive quarterly report on police activities. These included 669 traffic stops, 719 calls for services, nine assaults, 12 narcotic situations, 18 possession of controlled substances, 11 operating while intoxicated cases, 21 harassments, 65 animals (dogs and bats), four domestic abuse cases, and one child endangerment, among other services.

Clouse said the department’s Facebook page was shut down a year ago because of some harassing responses to it. The page is back up now with some protections. He hopes it will be a source of information for the community.

Clouse said, “We have had a 180 percent turnover rate over the past three years,” in employees and he identified officer retention as a major problem. Clouse identified wages as the main factor. “We’ll continue to work toward a solution,” he said.

The council unanimously approved the maintenance and upgrade of two water filters at the water plant immediately and future upgrades of two more filters. The council asked that they be notified if the estimated cost is found to exceed $75,000 for the first two filters.

The council unanimously approved a Class E liquor license for Casey’s General Store #1617 and a Class C beer permit for Dollar General Store #8463.

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