Tense GJ council mulls vacancies
With only five of them remaining, Grand Junction City Council members were tasked Tuesday with deciding to either appoint two new members or host an election to have the public decide.
The majority of councilors opted to appoint applicants to those seats, although the events leading up to that decision were marked with some of the animosity that has embroiled this City Council. After three councilors, Phyllis Norris, Marty Chazen and Sam Susuras, voted to temporarily amend the city’s charter so that three votes, not four, constituted a majority among five sitting councilors, Councilor Jim Doody protested and stormed out mid-meeting. Before walking out, Doody said he was frustrated by a reference to an assertion by former Councilor Rick Brainard that Chazen had marked up Brainard’s council notes in disagreement with how Brainard voted.
Then, in opposition to the wishes of Doody and Councilor Bennett Boeschenstein, the three councilors decided that the board would appoint replacements and not send the decision to the voters.
“I don’t think we should spend the taxpayers’ money (on an election),” Norris said. Depending on when an election is held, costs could range from $45,000 to $100,000.
As it stands now, the five councilors will appoint a new councilor to the District E seat, which was vacated upon the death of Harry Butler. A first round of interviews and an appointment process was stalled when the then six sitting councilors split between candidates Duncan McArthur and Les Miller.
Councilors put the offer out again for candidates to apply to the seat, and one new candidate, Barbara Traylor Smith, also applied. The fourth candidate is Teresa Black.
Councilors will again host an informal session to meet and talk to candidates, followed by a question-and-answer session which will include questions from the audience. That appointment meeting will be Monday night.
After a sixth councilor has been appointed, the majority rule of four votes will be reinstated.
Councilors also are accepting application letters for the at-large position vacated by Brainard. Any city resident who is a registered voter and has lived in Grand Junction for the past year can apply for that seat. The city is expected to release more details on that appointment process in the coming weeks.
The city has not had two vacant council seats for at least 20 years, according to City Clerk Stephanie Tuin.
Chazen said after the meeting on Tuesday that he never tried to get Brainard to vote a certain way. Chazen said he questioned Brainard’s reasoning for choosing Miller during the first appointment process for the District E seat.
At that June 10 meeting, Boeschenstein, Brainard and Doody voted for Miller, while council members Chazen, Norris and Susuras picked McArthur.
“It’s important to know I did not try to influence his vote,” Chazen said. “I challenged him on it.”
In his departure, Brainard left a letter for City Council that included criticism of fellow councilors among other groups in the community.
Norris said that Brainard attacked a lot of people on his way out, and it was unfair for Doody to single out Chazen. Doody had already left the meeting at this point.
“To blame one person is wrong,” she said.
Susuras also admonished Doody for storming out.
“For someone who’s been on this council for eight years ... that is no excuse to walk out of council meeting,” he said.