By Victoria Martinez
Despite the appointment of a replacement on Feb. 8, Foster Reif’s vacant seat on the Buellton City Council will not be filled until the November general election.
At the Feb. 22 council meeting, City Attorney Steve McEwen apologized to the council, the three applicants who had interviewed for the vacant seat in February, and the public for a government code oversight that made the appointment of local attorney John Dorwin null and void.
“We’ve had a very unusual set of circumstances here in Buellton,” McEwen explained.
Dorwin had been appointed to fill the seat vacated by Reif, who moved from town when he accepted a new job. Longtime Buellton residents Judith Dale and Shannon Sadecki had also interviewed for the position.
After the meeting, however, McEwen discovered a government code section that states that an appointment cannot be made to fill a City Council vacancy if it would result in the majority of the council members having been appointed rather than elected. Buellton had already appointed two members to the council in the past year, which made appointing Dorwin a violation of state law.
According to government code, the city is required to fill the vacancy at the next regularly established election date, which is Nov. 6. McEwen explained to the council that had the code disallowing the appointment been discovered when Reif first resigned, the city may have been able to participate in the county’s June election, but the deadline for that possibility has passed.
Dorwin told the council that he had contacted the California Secretary of State’s office to clarify if McEwen’s interpretation of the code is correct. In response to Dorwin’s concerns, McEwen restated his interpretation that the November election would be the only legal option for filling the seat.
With the addition of the vacant seat to the ballot, Buellton will now be asked to fill all five council seats, including the mayor’s, at the November election.
McEwen told the council that he plans to bring options to an upcoming meeting for the council to decide how to stagger the terms of the five new council members.