Rochester City Council member resigns

Council votes to keep seat open until November

By: Mary Beth Almond | Rochester Post | Published July 27, 2021

 Dean Bevacqua

Dean Bevacqua

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ROCHESTER — Rochester City Councilman Dean Bevacqua has resigned from his position.

Bevacqua — who recently moved from Rochester to Pontiac and is no longer eligible to serve — announced his resignation, which he said was “somewhat unexpected,” during the June 28 council meeting.

“An opportunity presented itself to myself and to my wife, Melissa, which is going to have us moving out of Rochester July 26, so, unfortunately, I am going to have to resign my position on council,” he said during the meeting. “I just want to thank the residents who voted me in and allowed me to have this opportunity here for almost four years. It’s a little bittersweet.”

Bevacqua said he and his wife recently decided to downsize after becoming empty nesters.

“We ended up moving to Pontiac because you can’t downsize in Rochester affordably — it’s not an option. So we got a 1941 brick bungalow in Pontiac. … It gives us an opportunity to invest our money and our time into an underserved community. So we are excited about that and a new adventure,” he said.

During Bevacqua’s last council meeting July 12, council unanimously voted to accept the resignation and shared some words on his service to the community.

“Our loss will be Pontiac’s gain, and I’m sure we will be seeing Dean on the political scene somewhere else,” Council member Mark Albrecht said. “Thank you, Dean, for helping me to become a better council member, and good luck to you and your wife, Melissa, on your new home.”

Mayor Stuart Bikson said he appreciates people who take the time and effort to work for the betterment of the people of Rochester.

“I appreciate you getting involved in the process and I thank you for your passion on the issues. We didn’t always agree on everything, but we could agree to disagree and be friendly about it,” he said to Bevacqua during the meeting.


The candidates
Bevacqua was elected to the board in November 2017 for a four-year term ending this November. His departure means that a replacement, who would need to be appointed by council within 60 days of the vacancy, would only serve for a couple of months.  

Six residents submitted their names for consideration — Debbie Allen, Douglas Gould, Christian Hauser, Brendan Johnson, Richard Kendziuk and Terry Tesh — and all were invited to make a presentation during the July 26 council meeting.

Three of the candidates — Allen, Gould and Tish — all filed in April to run for Rochester City Council this November.

After presentations were made, the council voted 5-1 to leave the seat vacant. Councilwoman Ann Peterson cast the dissenting vote.

Peterson said she thinks it’s best to have a full, seven-member council to vote on city issues for the next three months.

“I do feel that we should have that seat filled, because in case there are ties or anything, we will have another body. Not only that, we have some very important things coming up and we have a couple of really qualified people who have sat in positions that could help us make decisions moving forward and actually operate as a full council,” she said.

The five remaining council members — Mayor Stuart Bikson and Council members Mark Albrecht, Amanda Harrison, Nancy Salvia and Steve Sage — voted to leave the seat open until voters can pick a permanent replacement in the November election.

“This is a unique time where we are this close to an election and we have a vacancy. Since Council member Bevacqua resigned and the mayor and (City Clerk) Lee Ann (O’Connor) announced the process for this, I’ve gone back and forth 100 times in my head,” Albrecht said.

If the council were to select one of the three people who applied for the position that will also appear on the ballot in November, Albrecht said it would give one of them a head start on the others, which he didn’t want to do.

The council could have chosen one of the three candidates who did not file to run in the November election — an idea that was put to rest by a majority vote.

“My bottom line is, we are six members, we are elected by the residents and we represent 13,000-plus residents of Rochester, but I like the voters picking who is on City Council and that’s what I keep coming back to,” Albrecht said.

Bikson agreed.

“With there only being a few meetings to go before (the November election), I would prefer to have the voters decide,” he said.

City Attorney Jeffrey Kragt said the city charter says the City Council “shall” fill the position within 60 days of the vacancy.

“As far as repercussions if you don’t, there is no set-forth violation of the charter. No one can force you to select somebody,” he said.

Back in the day, Kragt said, the word “shall” meant “must,” but the court system has now moved to the thought that “shall” means “may.”

“When the charter was adopted, I believe ‘shall’ meant … that it was mandatory. Today, if it was something that was brought before (the court system), I think there is a real concern that it would be interpreted ‘may,’” Kragt said. “If (shall) was deemed or interpreted to be permissive, then there wouldn’t be any consequence or risk for not following through with that. That is a very current topic.”

Following the vote, Hauser — who is also an attorney — voiced his disgust with the council’s decision not to fill the vacancy.

“I have to say I am incredibly frustrated at the process,” he said. “You solicited invitations for people to submit their application for this seat. people spent time, they spent their effort, they spent their energy to do something only to have that whole opportunity taken away. I guess the fundamental issue that I have is, if that’s how it’s going to be, then don’t ask,” he said.

Hauser also offered a different interpretation of the word “shall.”

“I’ve always understood ‘shall.’ It’s not optional. You do it. That’s why you have the charter, and if you’re not going to follow the charter, then why follow any ordinance? Why follow any rule? Why follow any policy?” he said during the meeting.


Voters to select four council seats in Nov. 2 election
Voters will be asked to elect four people to the Rochester City Council in the Nov. 2 election.

O’Connor said that since the filing deadline for the November election was back in April — when Bevacqua had still planned on running for reelection — his name will appear on the ballot. She said it is too late in the process to remove it.  

“Council member Bevacqua’s name will not be able to come off the ballot, so as a city, we need to get the word out there … that this person does not live in the city and would not be able to serve,” Bikson explained.

Others who will be listed on the ballot, according to Oakland County’s Official Candidate List, include incumbents Stuart Bikson, Steve Sage and Nancy Salvia, as well as newcomers Debra Allen, Douglas Gould and Terry Tesh.

The City Council is the legislative body that adopts ordinances that create new chapters or amend the current city code. The City Council has seven members. Six members have staggered four-year terms, and one member has a two-year term. The two-year term is filled by the candidate who tallies the lowest number of votes out of the top four candidates in each election.

Rochester City Council meetings are held inside Rochester City Hall, 400 Sixth St., at 7 p.m. on the second and fourth Mondays of every month. For more information, visit www.ci.rochester.mi.us.

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