MUNROE FALLS: City councils typically are composed of an uneven number of members to avoid tie votes.
But that practical precaution doesn’t work if there’s an empty seat at the table, as Munroe Falls City Council is demonstrating this month.
On Tuesday, it tried for a fourth time to elect a president, but again ended with a 3-3 vote. Then it tried to appoint a new member to the vacant seat. That, too, failed with a 3-3 split.
So next week, council will hold its fourth organizational meeting — a routine annual affair that most groups complete in a few minutes during the first week of the new year.
If that effort fails, Mayor Frank Larson, who has had to run the council meetings in lieu of a president, said he’ll have to do something he’s not sure a Munroe Falls mayor has ever done: pick a council member for the people.
Once council has its seventh member, it stands a better chance of success at deciding its next leader, a job that must be filled before the election of a vice president and Planning Committee representative and the making of committee appointments.
The monthlong stalemate started Jan. 2, when the nonpartisan council met for its first organizational meeting. The six members divided their votes for president evenly between Steve Stahl and Jim Iona. They took a break and tried a second time with the same result. They scheduled a new meeting for Jan. 7, and voted the same way again.
In the meantime, council also had the responsibility of filling a vacant seat created when Iona, who was midway through his four-year council-at-large term, decided to run for an open four-year at-large council term last November. He won, leaving two years left on his old seat.
Twelve people expressed interest in the post, and nine showed up for interviews Jan. 14.
On Monday, council took another crack at electing a president, to no avail. At the same meeting, the six members took their first vote on who the seventh person should be.
Stahl, Bob Pitz and John Hegnauer voted for Allen Mavrides, municipal services coordinator at an architectural firm and current chair of the Summit County Planning Commission.
Pitz said that with extensive flooding problems in the city, he thought Mavrides’ civil engineering experience would make him a valuable addition to council.
Meanwhile, Iona, Mike Barnes and Gary Toth voted for Sam Busic, who lost his council seat last year when a filing error prevented him from running for re-election.
Busic “did a nice job on council and he’s got a lot of experience and we wouldn’t have to train him,” Iona said, explaining his preference. “It would keep the continuity going.”
Council is expected to try to fill the vacant council seat after Tuesday’s meeting of its Planning Committee, although the city charter gives it 30 days — or until Jan. 31 — to make up its mind.
“If we don’t make it by then, the mayor is going to make it for us,” said Pitz, who added that he is optimistic things will be worked out before the meeting Tuesday.
“My phone has been ringing back and forth” with council members trying to make a deal, he said.
Iona said he’s OK with leaving it to the mayor, if it comes to that.
“I trust him,” he said.
Regardless of who makes the selection, once the seventh seat is filled, council likely will vote on filling its leadership posts immediately.