NORTH ADAMS — There will be a vacant seat on the City Council until November.
Former council President Jason LaForest abruptly quit the council last week. After some debate Tuesday night, the City Council voted to wait to fill the seat until November’s election. After that election, the nonincumbent with the most votes will join the council for the remainder of the current term.
Councilors Marie Harpin and Bryan Sapienza voted “no” on the proposal, while councilors Lisa Blackmer, Keith Bona, Benjamin Lamb, Peter Oleskiewicz and Wayne Wilkinson voted “yes.” Councilor Jess Sweeney was absent.
During the past term, there have been multiple resignations from the council, as well as empty seats to fill. After former council President Paul Hopkins left in May, the council took applications and voted 5-3 to give Sapienza the seat. The same process added Oleskiewicz to the council last August, when Robert Moulton Jr. resigned over comments he made about Black Lives Matter and the coronavirus pandemic.
But, with a City Council election set for November, Blackmer wrote to the council, suggesting that it wait to see who gets the most votes in November.
“The last time the Council had a resignation in August, we waited to fill the position until after the November election,” she wrote. When Clark H. Billings resigned in late August 2009, the council voted to wait until the November election to fill his seat, the North Adams Transcript reported at the time.
Not all councilors agreed with Blackmer’s recommendation.
“If we’re going to fill the seat, let’s do it now,” Sapienza said, advocating that the open seat be filled with the runner-up from the 2019 election.
Specific 2021 council rules say that those interested in an open seat can submit a letter of interest and, at a meeting, interested candidates can speak and the council will vote.
Lamb expressed frustration with the situation.
“I will just say it’s incredibly ridiculous that we are spending this much time trying to figure this process out three times during this term,” he said. “We should have just created a new rule.”
The council voted to swear in the new member Nov. 9.
At the same meeting Blackmer, who previously was vice president, officially was sworn in as council president.