If a vacancy occurs on the City Council, the Council has two options and 60 days to decide how to act. The Council may either appoint a successor or call a special election to fill the vacant seat.
Looking to the November 3, 2020 election, if Council Member William Weirick is elected and sworn in as Mayor, then the Council may appoint, or call for a special election to elect, any elector of the City to fill the remaining term, through to the November 2022 election, without regard to the Council Districts.
General Vacancy Requirements
California Government Code § 36512 sets the requirements for filling a City Council vacancy. If a vacancy occurs on the City Council, at noted above, the Council has two options and 60 days to decide how to act.
Option One: The Council may within 60 days from the commencement of the vacancy call a special election to fill the vacant seat. The election must be held at the next regularly established election date at least 114 days after calling the election. An elected successor holds office for the remainder of the original term.
Option Two: The Council may within 60 days from the commencement of the vacancy appoint a successor to fill the vacant seat. If the Council chooses to seek an appointment, the process is up to the Council, and can begin with a call for applications for the Council to begin the appointment process, similar to the same process of appointing members to the boards, commissions, and committees.
How long the appointed successor holds office depends on when the vacancy arose. If the vacancy arises during the first half of a Council term and at least 130 days before the next regular election, then the appointed successor holds office only until the next regular election. Then, at the same time as the next regular election, a special election must be held for the remainder of the original term.
If instead, the vacancy arises later, during the second half of the term or in the first half but less than 130 days before the next regular election, then the appointed successor holds office for the remainder of the original term.
November 3, 2020 Election – Possible Vacancy
It is possible that the outcome of the November 3, 2020 election will be a vacancy on the Council, if Council Member Weirick is elected and sworn in as Mayor.
If that happens, then the Council will have 60 days to decide whether to call a special election or appoint a successor. A special election would, if called, be set for the next regularly established election date at least 114 days after the call for the election, which could be the November 9, 2021 election.
As this vacancy would arise in the second half of Council Member Weirick’s current term, the appointed or elected successor would hold the seat for the remaining term, to the date those persons elected at the November 8, 2022 election are sworn in.
The next question is whether that vacancy, if it arises, must be filled at-large or be limited to a person resident within Council District No. 3. On December 11, 2018, the Council adopted Ordinance 889, which transitioned the City to district-based elections pursuant to Elections Code § 10010 and the California Voting Rights Act.
Under Ordinance 889, the single Council office up for reelection in November 2020 will be elected by the voters of Council District No. 4 (Ojai Municipal Code § 2-6.102). Ordinance 889 provided that the remaining three Council offices would be elected by the voters of Council District Nos. 1, 2, and 3 starting with the November 2022 election (Ojai Municipal Code § 2-6.104).
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