CARLSBAD — The sudden and unexpected resignation of Councilwoman Barbara Hamilton is turning into a battle for how the City Council will move forward to fill the soon-to-be vacant District 1 seat.
Hamilton announced Sept. 10 she would step down due to family health reasons and effective Oct. 31. However, during its Oct. 8 meeting, she announced her resignation as of Oct. 9 and submitted an amended letter of resignation to City Manager Scott Chadwick.
As for the council, it did not take action on making an appointment.
“I believe we have reached an impasse where the majority of the council has refused and not allowed me to participate in the process,” she said, referring to the council’s goal-setting process.
Each year, the council discusses and votes on several long-term goals and was slated to do so several weeks ago. However, Hamilton was on the wrong end of a 3-2 vote prohibiting her from participating as the council wished to have a five-member board before moving forward.
“I’m disappointed in the council decision to delay goal setting,” she said. “I’d expect my input to be treated with the same level of respect as any other council member.”
As for the vacancy, one option for the council is to appoint a resident from District 1, which Hamilton represents, and another is to call for a special election. Hamilton sent a letter to city staff asking to discuss an ordinance to allow the city to both appoint and call for a special election.
The council, though, did not act on the item and left the meeting without any further action regarding the vacancy.
With Hamilton’s amended letter of resignation, the clock starts on the 60-day timeframe for the council to either appoint or call a special election, per the city’s municipal code.
She also called for a time-certain vote for either the Oct. 15 or Oct. 22 meetings, but the motion failed by 2-2 vote with Mayor Matt Hall and Councilman Keith Blackburn against. Councilwoman Cori Schumacher recused herself from the item, saying she didn’t want the appearance of a conflict of interest or bias.
The item may return for the Oct. 15 or Oct. 22 meetings. The council, however, is not scheduled to meet on Oct. 29, although it could call for a special meeting with 24-hours notice.
After the October meetings, the next scheduled meeting is Nov. 12.
said the council must be thorough with its decision, calling for a 15-day window for residents to apply, 15 days for the council to review the submissions and then making a decision, whether it is an appointment or special election.
“People will also have three minutes to come up here and speak about why they should be up here,” Hall added. “After that night, we will either appoint somebody and if we can’t, we’ll go to a special election.”
Residents were split among their opinions regarding the next steps. Some called for appointing Tracy Carmichael, who lost to Hamilton by 237 votes in the November 2018 election.
Others called for a special election to keep the process fair and transparent, while others said an open call for appointees should be the path forward. Some, meanwhile, feared the decision has already been made and the discussions are just a formality required by law.
Blackburn said he is against an interim appointment because it takes months to get up to speed and years to become fully aware and good at the job.
Carmichael spoke to the council lobbying for her inclusion, noting she has attended every City Council meeting and others, such as the San Diego Association of Governments, and has stayed engaged since the election.
“That election was the largest turnout in Carlsbad history. It is my belief that the voters of District 1 have spoken,” she said. “I worked hard to gain the confidence of the voters and it was a very close race.”
The council did approve staff bringing back information on how other cities are approaching a vacancy specific to districts.
Steve Puterski covers Carlsbad and Vista. For tips or story ideas, contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @StevePuterski.