Mayor Alejandra Cortez resigned her Council seat on July 3, 2023. Government Code Section 36512(b) states, "[i]f a vacancy occurs in an elective office provided for in this chapter, the Council shall, within 60 days from commencement of the vacancy, either fill the vacancy by appointment or call a special election to fill the vacancy."
Pursuant to Government Code Section 36512(b)(1) states, "[i]f the council calls a special election, the special election shall be held on the next regularly established election date not less than 114 days from the call of the special election."
The deadline for Council action is September 1, 2023.
Therefore, Council has the following options: (1) fill the vacancy by appointment; or (2) call a special election to fill the vacancy. If the City Council fails to act by September 1, 2023, a special election is automatically required by State law. It should be noted that September 1, 2023 falls on a Friday. City Hall is open Monday through Thursday. The last working weekday before the deadline is Thursday, August 31, 2023.
Option 1. By September 1, 2023, Appoint a City Council Member to Fill the Vacancy
If the City Council were to fill the vacancy by appointment, the appointee would hold office until the next general municipal election, which is scheduled for November 2024. Thereafter, the person elected in November 2024 would serve the remainder of the term ending in November 2026.
The process to appoint a City Council Member is not established by law, other cities throughout California have adopted their own process. City Council will need to determine if past practices used by the City will be followed in filling an appointment. The City's past practices include: candidate letters of interest, applications, resumes, a timeline for advertising of the vacancy and established deadline dates. Candidate interviews must be conducted in open session at the following Regular Council Meeting.
Requirements for individuals seeking the appointment include, a resident of Bell Gardens, US citizen, registered voter to fill the unexpired term of the former Council Member.
Under the recommended terms of the application, each applicant shall be afforded a maximum of three (3) minutes to make an opening statement followed by questioning from Councilmembers. Once all applicants have been interviewed, the City Council may entertain nominations or conduct motions to:
- Vote to appoint a candidate that same day: Entertain nominations for one (1) or more candidates to fill the vacancy and upon completion of nominations, entertain motions vote on each candidate in the order they were nominated with the first candidate to receive three (3) or more votes being appointed that same day to fill the vacancy by City Council Resolution;
- Defer the vote to a future meeting date: Move to continue the proceedings to another date wherein nominations will be made and motions will be entertained, provided such date is no later than the September 1, 2023 deadline for filing the vacancy by appointment; or
- Extend the application period to solicit additional applications: Solicit additional applications by extending the nomination period, provided that the appointment process under such extension may still be completed by or before September 1, 2023.
The City Council also reserves the right to forgo making an appointment and instead call for a special election.
Wednesday, August 9, 2023, 5:00 p.m. - Deadline for City Clerk to receive Letters of Interest and applications from persons wishing to be considered for appointment to fill the vacancy. A draft application is attached.
Monday, August 14, 2023 - 6:00 p.m. - City Council may make an appointment in public session at regularly scheduled City Council meeting.
The person appointed to fill the vacancy will hold office until the next general municipal election on November 5, 2024.
Option 2 - Hold the position vacant until the next regularly established election date not less than 114 days from the call of the special election.
If the City Council chooses to fill the vacancy through a special election – or if the Council seeks to fill the position by appointment but does not do so within 60 days of the vacancy – the election must be scheduled on the next regularly scheduled election date not less than 114 days from the call of the election.
The timeline for calling the next two special elections that the Los Angeles Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk has scheduled is the March 5, 2024 Presidential Primary at a cost of approximately $771,000, as it would be a stand-alone election. The next regularly scheduled municipal election is November 5, 2024 as there will be two expiring terms scheduled on that election. The November 7, 2023 election is not an option because this election date falls within the restricted 114 days from the call of the election.