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Encinitas council votes to fill vacant seat by appointment

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Encinitas will appoint someone to fill a newly vacant City Council seat, rather than hold a special election.

On Wednesday, the council voted 3-1, with newly elected Councilman Bruce Ehlers opposed, to continue the appointment, saying it would save the city money and get someone on the job faster. The council expects to select a candidate to fill the position by the end of January.

The earliest a special election could be held is May 2, and the county’s Registrar of Voters has estimated that the city’s costs for that special election would be $250,00 to $400,000, said City Clerk Kathy Hollywood .

Mayor Tony Kranz, a former longtime city council member whose recent election to the mayor’s seat created the new city council seat, voted for the appointment along with council members Kellie Hinze and Joy Lyndes. Both Hinze and Lyndes were originally appointed to the council themselves, and then ran for election.

“We have been well served by the appointment,” Hinze said.

Hinze said she would rather spend money on infrastructure improvements than a special election, while Lyndes said the appointment could go to a candidate like herself who is “more of a public servant than a politician.”

While the majority of the council supported appointing someone to the post, 11 of the 16 public speakers on the issue said the city should hold a special election, calling it the democratic thing to do and “well worth the money.”

Ehlers said he totally agreed with them. Noting that he was just elected, he said it was highly unlikely that the current council would have chosen him as an appointee if his predecessor, Joe Mosca, had resigned before his term ended.

Ehlers is a former city planning commissioner who was removed from the commission in April. Council members said they unanimously voted to remove him because they believed he could not be impartial on housing development issues after he filed paperwork supporting a court case against the city. Ehlers and his supporters said it was a vindictive political stunt to derail Ehlers’ City Council campaign.

On Wednesday, Ehlers noted that Del Mar and Carlsbad will not allow council appointees to run for their seats when their seats next come up for election and said Encinitas should adopt a similar municipal code.

That’s not possible unless Encinitas wants to change its system of governance, Kranz told him. Del Mar and Carlsbad are charter cities, meaning they have special governing documents, or charters, that their voters have approved. Encinitas, like most cities in California, is a common law city, meaning it operates under the general laws of the state.

Under state law, cities must hold an election if the person in office has more than two years left when the council seat is vacant. If it’s two years or less, cities have the option of either holding a special election or appointing someone to the council to fill out the term. When Kranz took over as mayor, he was a little less than two years into his four-year council mandate.

As a councilor, Kranz represented the city’s District 1, which primarily covers the Leucadia region. The appointee who replaces him must also come from this area. Applicants must also be at least 18 years old and a registered voter. The application deadline will likely be Jan. 10 to meet the council’s goal of considering applicants at its Jan. 18 meeting, city officials said Wednesday.

In another action Wednesday, the city council:

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