The city’s attorney told the City Council on Monday that it cannot leave a council seat vacant, as it has done for the past month.
The council must appoint someone, Corporation Counsel John Polster said.
“It should exercise its duties,” he added.
He read from the charter to emphasize that the council cannot simply keep its seventh seat empty until the November election.
“The council shall appoint a qualified person to fill such vacancy,” he read, adding, “Because it used the word ‘shall,’ it does not leave the council any discretion.”
Council members appeared unmoved by the announcement. The only reaction was a question: Councilman Vince Riggi asked how many votes would be necessary to appoint someone.
The answer: Four.
That means if Riggi continues to resist appointing anyone, and is joined by at least two of his colleagues, no one can be appointed.
But residents urged the council to appoint someone.
P.D. Voorhis said it was “unhealthy” to leave the seat vacant after Councilwoman Barbara Blanchard had a stroke.
“It was obvious to a lot of people that we were not going to be represented,” Voorhis said.
That seat was filled when Blanchard’s term expired at the end of the year. But two weeks later, Councilwoman Denise Brucker resigned because she had moved to Niskayuna. The council has thus been a six-member board for 17 months.
Voorhis said the council should pick Republican Joseph Lazzari, who finished fourth in the November election. At the time, Brucker had announced that she was moving but had not yet left, so only the top three vote-getters won seats.
Voorhis said Lazzari should have gotten a seat.
“The next highest vote-getter takes that position, regardless of party,” she said.
In the past, others have objected to the council appointing people who ran and lost, declaring that the voters chose against them.
But the consensus among speakers Monday — both Republicans and Democrats — was to appoint someone.
Resident Lou Grasso asked the council to pick Democrat Ed Kosiur, a Woodlawn neighborhood resident. He argued Kosiur’s connection to the neighborhood made him the best choice to replace Brucker, who was also a Woodlawn resident.
Riggi objected, saying, “We are all members-at-large. It shouldn’t be based on where they live, it should be based on whether they can serve the city.”
Resident and Republican Mary McClaine, who ran for election last year, said she wanted the seat.
“Is that vacant seat a positive for the community? I consider it an assault on the Constitution,” she said.
But she made it clear she was also disgusted by the entire situation.
“The Democratic Party has denied the community access to that seat via the ballot box,” she said. “Council intends to make that choice for them.”