Columbia City Council considers special election to fill Fifth Ward seat

Friday, November 2, 2012 | 6:29 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — Helen Anthony's Fifth Ward seat on the Columbia City Council won't remain empty long if the council approves a resolution to hold a special election in February at its Monday meeting.

If the council does not approve the resolution, the seat will stay empty until regular elections are held in April. Anthony submitted her resignation effective Nov. 30 at the council's Oct. 16 meeting because she plans to move to Providence, R.I., to live with her husband.

If the council passes the resolution, candidates would have to file nominating petitions with at least 50 and no more than 75 signatures from registered voters in the Fifth Ward between Nov. 6 and Dec. 12. The election would be Feb. 5.

Third Ward Councilman Gary Kespohl said he is concerned whether it would be legal for the council to approve a special election to fill Anthony's seat before she resigns.

"The mayor and I were talking about that, and we're not sure if we can set up a special election before she leaves," Kespohl said.

City Counselor Fred Boeckmann said the council could legally vote on the resolution Monday. "I don't see that as a problem," he said.

Second Ward Councilman Michael Trapp said he planned to vote for the resolution.

"It would be too long for the Fifth Ward to go unrepresented until the April elections, so I think it would be worth the extra costs," Trapp said. "We have a fair number of 4-3 votes, so I think it would be better to fill it sooner rather than later."

Kespohl said that he originally supported waiting until the general election to fill Anthony's seat to avoid extra costs, but he changed his mind when he learned it would be cheaper than expected. A special election would cost $10,000 to $12,000, according to the resolution.

Fourth Ward Councilman Daryl Dudley said he planned to oppose the resolution. He doesn't like the expense and said it would be unfair to give candidates so little time to campaign.

City Clerk Sheela Amin said that Susan "Tootie" Burns, who announced her intention to run for the seat Oct. 19, was the only one thus far to pick up nominating petitions for the seat.

"I'm glad the City Council is considering having the February election," Burns said. She added that she has collected 55 signatures so far, more than the 50 required to enter the race.

Supervising editor is Scott Swafford.

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