PDT Staff Writer
The Portsmouth City Council attempted to address the vacant council president position Monday evening, but none of the three nominated council members received the majority vote needed to be named council president.
Former President of Portsmouth City Council and Fifth Ward Councilman John Haas, who resigned from those positions last week, was appointed Portsmouth city solicitor Monday night by council. As a result, current Council Vice President Rich Saddler is the acting president of Portsmouth City Council.
“I’ve been entrusted with the job of vice president of council and I thank each of you for believing in me and trusting me to fill this position. With the resignation of Mr. Haas we will be nominating and electing a new president of council. I’ve been asked by some of you and by many of the people in the second ward and people of other wards to step up to the position of council president,” Saddler told those in attendance at Monday night’s council meeting. “I appreciate the support and the belief in me to do the job as president. Unfortunately, due to my full-time job, that’s also out of town, I would be unable to fulfill the duties of council president to it’s full potential.”
He said he will be staying in the position of vice president through the end of the year 2013 and then opened up the floor for nominations for council president from the five council members present.
Saddler nominated Councilman Kevin Johnson, Councilman Nicholas Basham then nominated Councilman Jim Kalb and Councilman Steve Sturgill.
A vote was taken and each of the nominated members received two votes. With no one member receiving the majority of the votes, a new council president was not chosen.
It was advised by outgoing City Solicitor Mike Jones that council could wait to take another vote until the vacancy in the fifth ward could be filled.
“It appears there has not been a majority to appoint a new president. Obviously we have a vacancy in the fifth ward. My recommendation would be for council to appoint that new person to fill the term for Mr. Haas in the fifth ward. Then to make a determination on council president. That would be fair not only to the entire city but also to the fifth ward, who at this point does not have a voice on council,” Jones said.
After Jones’ comments, Johnson offered to withdraw his name from consideration and called for a revote.
“With what the solicitor had just stated, I think that might be a more appropriate approach,” Saddler said.
According to Section 5 of the Portsmouth City Charter, “If a vacancy occurs in the office of President, or in the case of his absence or disability, his duties shall be performed, during such absence or disability, by the Vice-President. In the absence or disability of both the President and the Vice-President, the remaining members of the council shall select one of their number to perform the duties of President.”
Jones continued on his point of delaying the selection of the next council president.
“I think it would be in this best interest of this body (city council) if we waited to have representation from one of the wards. I think this is only fair to the people of that district to allow them to have a voice in who’s going to be the next president of council,” Jones said.
A motion was made by councilman Kalb to refrain from an additional vote for council president until the vacancy in the fifth ward can be filled. The motion was approved by council.
Wayne Allen may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 228, or firstname.lastname@example.org.