Fraser City Council puts open seat controversy to rest

By: Nick Mordowanec | Fraser - Clinton Township Chronicle | Published February 3, 2016


FRASER — At its Jan. 14 meeting, the Fraser City Council unanimously voted to amend the city charter so that a seat will not remain open for more than two meetings or 45 days — which is contingent on the normal meeting schedule.

The agenda item was one of many in what was about a five-hour meeting. When the item finally came up late in the evening, Councilman Michael Lesich made a motion to table the item, but Councilwoman Patrice Schornak opposed.

“I don’t think this will be a six-hour battle,” Schornak said. “The residents waited over a year for someone to do something about this.”

Her words were mirrored by Councilwoman Yvette Foster, who said, “I don’t think this needs to be a big issue. The residents waited long enough.”

Councilwoman Kathy Blanke made the motion to offer an open seat to the highest vote-getter from the previous election. If for some reason that didn’t work, then the offer would be made to the second-highest vote getter and so on. A new councilmember would then be sworn in at a future city council meeting.

Mayor Joe Nichols commended the suggestion by resident Janet Calabrese to instill a deadline so a seat cannot stay open for an infinite period of time. The timeline to fill the seat within two meetings includes a selection process and confirmation that a candidate actually wants the position.

The people were the major deciding factor in that empty seat being filled, Nichols said, and he was proud of what was accomplished between the residents and the council.

There was little to no contention, he said, and that was the best way to go about it in the interest of the community.

“I absolutely have to commend each and every single member of council,” Nichols said after the meeting. “We all unanimously agreed that we needed a resolution to fill that seat, and we wanted to keep it with the people.”

The mayor said the application process adhered to by the previous council was unsuccessful, and he wanted to make sure the democratic process was still being rewarded.

Choosing the next person in line from a previous election prevented any gray areas, he added.

“Those people got out, they campaigned and they wanted to be part of a council,” he said.