GROSSE POINTE FARMS — Mayor James Farquhar tearfully requested a moment of silence at the start of the Monday, Sept. 10, council meeting for the late three-term Councilman Joe Leonard.
It was the first meeting since Leonard, 76, died Aug. 19, of cancer.
"He worked hard to make our city the best it could be," Farquhar said. "I became good friends with him. He was honest, fair, decent. He did what he thought was right. I have a lot of respect for the man."
Following the silence, the meeting entered normal routine.
The council presented certificates of appreciation to members of the Grosse Pointe South High School state championship girls track team.
The city manager gave an update on mid-October activation of a permanent backup generator at the Kerby Road Pump Station.
A resident won support for increased enforcement of residential rental codes.
The matter of filling Leonard's seat came up near the end.
The city charter gives two options: Appoint a replacement or hold a special election, according to William Burgess, city attorney.
The council decided to welcome candidates for appointment, but didn't rule out an election.
Applicants have until 4 p.m. Monday, Oct. 1, to provide the city clerk a letter of interest, resume and answers to two questions:
u If appointed, do you agree not to run for office in 2013?
u If no appointment is made, are you going to run in the special election?
"A lot of people have expressed interest already," said Councilman Louis Theros.
A decision — appoint or not — likely comes at the regularly-scheduled October council meeting.
An appointment must occur within 60 days of the vacancy, the date of Leonard's death. If no choice is made by then, the process defaults to a special election.
Such an election would cost about $10,000, according to Shane Reeside, city manager.
"I'm opposed to special elections," said Councilman Lev Wood. "I'm opposed to spending the money."
Leonard was the third Farms councilman in recent years to die in office.
Preceding vacancies were filled by appointment. Appointments generally go to qualified candidates promising not to run for office upon completing the open term.
The theory is appointees shouldn't use non-elected status to benefit from the power of incumbency.
An appointee to Leonard's seat serves until the next regularly scheduled city election, November 2013, about one year.
"At the November 2013, election, that vacancy would be filled by the electorate," Burgess said.
The victor of special election serves the balance of Leonard's term, through November 2015, three times longer.
If the vacancy is filled by appointment, the November 2013 ballot will consist of three expired terms and a fourth for the remaining two years of Leonard's term.
"According to our charter, three persons receiving the highest number of votes would fill the four-year terms," Burgess said. "The person receiving the fourth highest vote total would serve the remaining two years to complete the balance of Joe's unexpired term."
Scheduling a special election is problematic, given constraints of the November general election and time needed to circulate petitions for the council seat, verify signatures and more, according to Burgess.
"As a practical matter, we believe it is not feasible," he said. "We have not called a special election in the 26 years I've been acquainted (with the Farms.)"
The next available date for a special election, according to state law, is February 2013, he added.