Status quo on council vacancy

by nathan oster

The Greybull Town Council will continue to operate as a four-member body, as the council on Monday failed for a third consecutive month to agree on the process that should be used to fill the seat that Myles Foley vacated in order to become mayor.

Bob Graham, the former mayor who was unseated by Foley in November by a margin of six votes in the closest election in town history, used the public comment period of Monday’s meeting to press the mayor and Councilman Clay Collingwood to explain why they opposed the idea of seeking letters of interest from the community.

“The last three times (there has been a vacancy), that has been the procedure that was used to fill it,” said Graham. “It’s not a state statute. But it’s how we’ve done it in the past.”

Foley said he didn’t like the way it went the last time the council sought letters of interest from the community. He said he’s within his rights as mayor to appoint someone to fill the vacancy, with council approval.

Collingwood said he felt it “should be left to the mayor” to decide.

Foley continued, “I originally wanted the third runner-up (“Pappy” Capen), but that failed. I feel like the mayor should be able to point and that’s what I’m going to do. If people have interest, they should run.”

The idea of holding a special election to fill the seat was raised. But at a cost of $15,000, minimum, the idea failed to generate any momentum.

Foley said he believes the council will ultimately be able to put its differences aside and fill the seat, that person he has been pushing to fill the seat, Marguerite Van Dyke, is “more than qualified, and that he believes requesting letters of interest would take too long.

Councilman Scott Mattis said that with municipal statute providing no clear path, state statute should be followed, and that what state statute says is that the governing body — meaning mayor and council members — shall appoint a person to serve until a successor is elected at the next election.

“It does not give the mayor sole right to appoint a person to fill that vacancy,” said Mattis.

Kent Richins, the town attorney, said his interpretation is that the council could go either way — either back the mayor’s appointee or nominate someone from the floor. Both approaches have been attempted already, without success. Richins suggested that the council put something it its ordinances about how future vacancies should be filled.

When the appointment came up during the regular meeting, the council needed less than a minute to do what it did last month. Once again, Clay Collingwood nominated Van Dyke, who was present. Once again, that nomination failed to get a second from either Rod Collingwood or Mattis, effectively ending the discussion for another month.