County Council receives instruction on process to fill soon-to-be vacant seat

County Chair Karen Dill Bowerman will nominate three candidates for the District 5 position

The process for filling the Clark County Council position of Eileen Quiring O’Brien became clearer Tuesday with a staff report produced by Chief Civil Deputy Leslie Lopez that was emailed to all five members of the County Council for review.

Members of the council will discuss the process during Wednesday morning’s Council Time. 

Eileen Quiring O’Brien
Eileen Quiring O’Brien

O’Brien resigned her position as county chair on Feb. 2. She also announced she will resign her District 5 seat on the council on March 1. Councilor Karen Dill Bowerman was appointed as county chair by a vote of the councilors, including Quiring O’Brien.

Lopez instructions to the councilors Tuesday included confirmation that Quiring O’Brien’s two-step resignation was appropriate.

“A resignation by an elected official can be meant to be effectively (sic) immediately if the elected official states their resignation is immediate,’’ stated Lopez, referring to Quiring O’Brien’s resignation as county chair. “Alternatively, a resignation can also be made to be effective at some future date.  But, because the elected official may withdraw the resignation at any point up until the time specified for the resignation, the resignation is not effective until the specified time for the resignation is reached.

“Councilor O’Brien resigned from the Clark County Council on February 2, 2022, and stated her last day as a Councilor is March 1, 2022,’’ Lopez wrote. “Therefore, the effective date for purposes of filling the (council) position is March 2, 2022 since this is the first day the position will be vacant.’’

Lopez said in determining the process to fill the council vacancy the first question to ask is whether Councilor O’Brien’s position is partisan or nonpartisan. 

“Councilor O’Brien’s position is nonpartisan,’’ Lopez wrote. “In November, 2021, the voters approved the Charter Amendment making the county offices nonpartisan.

“The offices of council member, assessor, auditor, clerk, sheriff, treasurer and prosecuting attorney shall be nonpartisan offices,’’ Lopez stated. “Elections for the offices shall be conducted in the manner provided for partisan local elections under state law.

“Accordingly, since the office of council members is nonpartisan, the nonpartisan procedure to fill a vacancy applies,’’ Lopez wrote. “On a side note, Section 6.2 does state that elections for these offices shall be conducted in the manner provided for partisan local elections under state law, however, replacing Councilor O’Brien’s position is not an election.  Therefore, this particular section of the charter does not apply when determining how to fill the vacant seat.’’

Lopez stated that state law that applies addresses vacancies in office.

“If a vacancy occurs in a nonpartisan county board of commissioners elective office or nonpartisan county council elective office, the person appointed to fill the vacancy must be from the same legislative district, county, or county commissioner or council district as the county elective officer whose office was vacated, and must be one of three persons who must be nominated by the nonpartisan executive or nonpartisan chair of the board of commissioners for the county,’’ Lopez stated. “In case a majority of the members of the county legislative authority do not agree upon the appointment within sixty days after the vacancy occurs, the governor shall within thirty days thereafter, and from the list of nominees provided for in this section, appoint someone to fill the vacancy.

“Here, since Councilor O’Brien currently represents District 5, the person appointed to replace her position must reside in District 5 (as demonstrated in the district map currently in effect),’’ Lopez added.

County Chair Karen Dill Bowerman
County Chair Karen Dill Bowerman

Lopez informed the councilors that according to state law, Chair Bowerman, as the nonpartisan chair of the council, shall nominate three persons for the Council to consider. A majority vote is required to select a councilor from one of the three persons nominated by Chair Bowerman. 

If the council is unable to select one of the three nominees by majority vote within 60 days after the vacancy occurs, the governor shall within 30 days thereafter, appoint someone to fill the vacancy from the list of nominees. Here, since the vacancy will occur on March 2, the council will need to select a replacement by majority vote on or before April 30. If not, Gov. Inslee will make the selection from the list of nominees.

Chair Bowerman does not have to wait until March 2 before conducting the process to fill the position. Some elements of the process to fill the position can begin before March 2.  The councilors, including the resigning councilor, can participate in the process of filling the vacancy before the vacancy actually occurs, such as – advertising for interested candidates, gathering background information, etc. but cannot participate in any vote to fill the position because, technically, the vacancy does not yet exist.  

“Here, Councilor Bowerman does not have to wait until March 2, 2022, to nominate three individuals for the Council’s consideration,’’ Lopez wrote. “Further, once the nominations have been made, the Council can gather nominee resumes, decide on an interview schedule, etc.  However, the Council should not conduct interviews and vote to fill the position until, at the earliest, March 2, 2022, since technically, the vacancy does not exist until March 2, 2022.’’

And, because that vote can’t take place before March 2, Quiring O’Brien will not have a vote on her replacement because she will no longer be in office.

The appointed councilor will serve in the District 5 position until the end of O’Brien’s term, which is November 2022.

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Rob Anderson
1 year ago

Starting to see a pattern here folks? Democrat lawyers run the show. This, like the petition, is just opinions that surprisingly favor… wait for it… the Democrats!!
Can you imagine if Inslee gets to seat Eileen’s replacement? The Councilors let the petition slip through their hands because of the democrat lawyer, will they let it happen again?

1 year ago
Reply to  Rob Anderson

I hope Councilor O-Brian will stay in office. The maps of the new districts are not even in place yet. She doesn’t have to leave so soon, and for our sakes, I hope she will reconsider and finish her term. Otherwise, we could very well be stuck with Inslee’s choice for Clark County.

John Smith
John Smith
1 year ago

A ‘Karen’ is going to nominate three candidates. What could go wrong?

Carolyn Crain
1 year ago

These are not “surprise” findings. They are all codified in law. I doubt that Karen Bowerman will wait to start the process as long as Eileen is determined to leave on the date she announced. I suspect that while some people may not be happy with the nominated individuals there will be some who are ecstatic. That’s politics. May the good Lord prevail in his wishes.

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