Starling: Code details how to fill council seat

Published 11:00 pm Friday, October 7, 2016

City Clerk Alton Starling clarified on Friday that the procedure for filling the vacancy of the District 5 council seat is set by state law.

“In 1970 the state took a census of municipalities and put them in classes of one through 8,” Starling said. “Our population classified us as a Class 7 municipality. Different classes have different procedures.”

At a meeting of District 5 residents on Thursday, there was confusion about whether a special election was supposed to be held or if an appointment by the council was the only possibility for filling a seat vacated by the death of Dejerilyn King Henderson in early September. Henderson had been re-elected in August and would have been sworn in with the remainder of the new council members in November.

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About 50 residents gathered at the Pike County Courthouse on Thursday to discuss the vacancy on the city council and how to address it, with attendees suggesting the possibility of a special election.

However, Starling said that process does not apply in this case.

Section 11-44D-4 of the Code of Alabama does state that vacancies with more than one year remaining in the term should be filled by special election, but Starling said that that section does not apply to Troy.

“The code is convoluted,” Starling said.

The procedure for Class 7 municipalities like Troy is found in Section 11-44G-1 of the Code of Alabama:

“(a)(1) A vacancy in the office of city council member in any Class 7 or Class 8 municipality shall be filled by the city council at the next regular meeting or any subsequent meeting of the council. The person elected shall hold office for the unexpired term. In the event a vacancy is not filled within 60 days after it occurs in a Class 7 or Class 8 municipality, each existing city council member, including the mayor, may submit a name to the Governor for appointment. If the Governor fails to make an appointment from any submitted names within 90 days after the vacancy occurs, the judge of probate shall call a special election to fill the vacancy.

“(2) In the event the Governor is unable or unwilling to make the appointment within the time period provided, he or she shall immediately notify the judge of probate of the county.

“(3) Any election called pursuant to this section shall be conducted pursuant to Chapter 46 of this title.”

The Alabama League of Municipalities also references this section as the procedure to be followed in the event of a vacancy.

Starling said that the council has no other option than to appoint the representative or to let the 60-day period pass. The governor could then appoint the councilmember or pass on appointing a member, in which case the probate judge would hold a special election.

Although the council could appoint the District 5 representative, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the residents of District 5 couldn’t have input on whom they want to represent them.

“The council can take any input that they want or they could choose not to accept any names,” Starling said. “That’s their prerogative.”