Vancouver City Council outlines process to fill vacancy

City must find councilor for seat the late Scott Campbell won

By Katy Sword, Columbian staff writer

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Come January when the 2018 Vancouver City Council sits at the dais, one seat will be empty. Scott Campbell won Position 1, formerly Jack Burkman’s seat. But Campbell died before the election. He beat Maureen McGoldrick with 62 percent of the vote anyway.

This leaves the council with a vacancy and the task of appointing their peer.

The council discussed the process during a workshop Monday night.

Essentially, there are four steps to appointing a new councilor:

• First, the council must announce the vacancy. This includes notifying the media and publishing ads in local papers starting Dec. 29.

• Applications for the position are available as of Dec. 26 and will remain available until Jan. 18, 2018.

• Interviews will take place Feb. 5, 2018. In the meantime, the council will announce candidates Jan. 24 and background checks will take place Feb. 2.

• At the Feb. 5 regular meeting, the council will invite all applicants to attend and then break into executive session to vote on which candidates to interview. Those candidates will then be notified at the meeting and interviews will begin. Once all candidates have been interviewed, the council will return to executive session to consider candidates. The council will then return to open session once again and vote. If the process is not complete that evening, the council will resume deliberations Feb. 6.

The application will consist of a basic questionnaire, including the candidate’s background and why they seek appointment. Applicants can also include a resume and references, if they prefer.

One sticking point for the council was the inclusion of a question regarding criminal background.

In order to serve on the council, a candidate cannot have had a felony conviction as outlined in the state constitution. But there is an exception. If the person’s civil rights have been restored, they are once again eligible. The specifics on the issue were unknown and City Attorney Bronson Potter said he will clarify before applications are available.

Applicants also must have lived in Vancouver for two years, but there’s still some debate over when that two-year stint had to begin. The residency requirement will also be clarified before applications go out.

A final question gave the council pause. As it stands, the application includes a question asking candidates if they have anything in their background that would bring discredit to the council.

After some back and forth, Councilor Ty Stober proposed changing the wording to “expound on any item in your past that might receive public scrutiny if revealed during your time of service.” But the council ultimately decided to leave the question as is.

The actual interview process is outlined in city policy.

“The policy is fairly restrictive,” Potter said.

Each interviewee gets 34 minutes. Ten minutes are allotted to candidate presentation, 14 minutes for councilor Q-and-A and 10 minutes for any followup. Council could change this format, however. They will decide how to allot interview time Feb. 5.

When candidates receive the questions was up for debate.

Stober suggested offering questions ahead of time.

“I want to see how much time and effort somebody prepares to be here,” he said.

Councilors Bart Hansen and Alishia Topper disagreed.

“If they haven’t spent the time to come to council and they haven’t spent the time to learn the issues in front of council then they probably shouldn’t be in the seat to begin with,” Hansen said.

Topper likened the interview to a test.

“Anyone can study for a test,” Topper said. “None of us get all the questions in advance when citizens come to us.”

The council ultimately decided to ask the questions during the interview rather that disclose the questions beforehand. Selected candidates will also be sequestered so they cannot listen to other interviews before them.